Not far removed from its true-to-life counterpart "The Fighter," "Warrior" is about two men who decide to enter a mixed martial arts competition for two very different reasons. You don't need to be familiar with the sport to appreciate this entertaining film that's a character study of three people, all searching for a means of survival and redemption.

Tom Hardy ("Inception") and Joel Edgerton ("Animal Kingdom") play, respectively, estranged siblings Tom and Brendan Conlon. Tom is home from a stint in the Marine Corps and shows up unexpectedly at the home of his father Paddy (Nick Nolte). Right from the start, it's obvious that Tom is angry with his father, who tells his son he has stopped drinking.

Tom doesn't want to make up with his dad. Instead, he wants his father to help him train for a "Spartan" mixed martial arts, or MMA, tournament in Atlantic City. Paddy agrees to help his son - anything to make a connection with him and possibly rekindle a familial relationship.

In the meantime, Tom's brother Brendan continues his career as a high school physics teacher ... until the administration learns he has been fighting in MMA matches at a local strip bar.

Now Brendan has go to home and tell his wife Tess (Jennifer Morrison, television's "House") that he really hasn't been working as a bouncer, and he also ends up being suspended by the school board.

With foreclosure fast approaching, Brendan decides he will turn to what he considers his only option: begin training for the MMA fight in Atlantic City.

It's not hard to tell what's going to happen (particularly since the trailers reveal it all anyway), but who is going to end up fighting toward the finale isn't the point. It's how the characters' pasts affect the way they deal with the upcoming bout.

This is a story of an MMA match, certainly, but it's also a tale of a family torn asunder by a father's alcoholism and abandonment. Still, Paddy desperately wants to be considered as part of the family again by both of his sons. Nolte's performance is particularly riveting: Watch his eyes light up when he sees his boys, even though he knows there is little hope of being in their lives again.

The movie is a solid winner.

 

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