The best thing about “Warrior,” co-written and directed by Gavin O’Connor (“Pride and Glory”), is Nick Nolte’s great, perhaps deeply personal performance as the formerly alcoholic and abusive father.
It’s nice to see this veteran, not so long ago a stand-up punch line, figuratively wipe the floor with his two young, talented co-stars, Brando-esque Brit Tom Hardy (“Inception”) and Aussie Joel Edgerton (“Animal Kingdom”).
Hardy and Edgerton are Tommy and Brendan Conlon, respectively, although Tommy uses his mother’s maiden name (a crucial and typically contrived plot point). Nolte is hulking wreck Paddy Conlon, a man who is in recovery and seeking forgiveness. When Tommy shows up, a drunken pill-head Marine recently back from combat in the Middle East, he agrees to let the old man, a former wrestling coach, train him for the big MMA fight.
Family man Brendan, meanwhile, a high-school physics teacher, also trained to fight by his estranged dad, is trying to keep a roof over the heads of his daughters and wife Tess (a very good Jennifer Morrison of “House”). But his mortgage is under -water, and the only way he knows to make extra -money is to fight.
Guess what? Yeah — and the film would have you believe that no sports reporter realizes the two fighters are brothers until the final showdown? And that uniformed troops show up en masse to sing the “Marines’ Hymn” whenever AWOL Tommy steps into the cage. This movie, which features many real-life athletes in its cast, is nothing if not shamelessly corny.
See Hardy’s battling madman Tommy crush opponents. See physics teacher Brendan face the seemingly unstoppable -giant Koba (Olympic gold medalist and WCW and WWF champion Kurt Angle). I realize we all want to feel good as we sweat out this purgatorial recession. But compared to this soapy fiction, “The Fighter” was a documentary.