Leading to a clash that is both inevitable and almost excruciatingly tense, director Gavin O’Connor forms two protagonists, both deserving and equal in many ways, despite their more obvious differences. It’s an interesting and very clever approach that works fantastically as soon as we see the brothers come to blows; it is almost impossible for audiences to decide who they are rooting for more. What’s more, the viewer is never quite sure where the conclusion is heading, making the massive MMA moments utterly involving and unavoidably moving in the way that sports-melodramas always seems to manage. The setup up to these big moments however, is incredibly slow and far less compelling - a problem that is only amplified by the high-octane, nail biting fight scenes that follow.
The handheld camera work creates an enormous sense of urgency during the scenes filmed in the ring. The continual motion is involving and reflective of the environment the audience is watching, however the technique is used to excess during earlier moments where the grainy picture works with it to create a feeling of blue-collar authenticity to dizzying effect.
A ‘training’ montage and cliche-ridden script add to Warrior’s distractions, however the final third is so well-handled that it’s easy to get carried away with the film’s big finale. Indeed, it is only when the heat is truly on that we felt the real intensity of the family drama. Perhaps this is because we finally get to see the real family angst cracking out from beneath the surface. Or perhaps it’s because both Tommy and Paddy are just not that likable in earlier scenes.
But all is almost forgiven as the credits begin to roll. Warrior is a fighter and it certainly succeeds in delivering a whacking great punch. Hardy and Edgerton give solid and physically incredible performances, leading to some thrilling, edge-of-your-seat final rounds and a payoff that goes for audience satisfaction over tying loose ends.