WARRIOR (Gavin O' Connor)
There are sports dramas, and then there are sports dramas. WARRIOR, transcends the sports drama genre mainly because of the pureness of the sibling story at its core and the unflinching performances of its seasoned cast. Both Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy are compelling to watch, but it's Nick Nolte who plays their reformed father on a path of redemption who's really the show-stopper.
The mixed martial arts sport serves as the arena for siblings Tommy (Hardy) and Brendan (Edgerton) to dish out long standing family issues, and what's ironic is that neither of them wanted the confrontation. Each has a purpose for being in the ring- Tommy wants the money to fulfill a promise to a fallen comrade; Brendan needs to win or else their house will be repossessed by the bank. Eventually, they meet in the end. Brendan is willing to forgive, but Tommy is not. There is a subdued rage within Tommy that bursts whenever he pulls punches.
Through dialogue, we get a glimpse but never fully understand what transpired between the brothers, only that there seems to be an irreparable damage that only an act of compassion can heal. The story does not concern itself much with the back story but rather the future of its characters. What will become of them? This is a story where the two top contenders are equally rooted for. Whomever loses you feel empathy for.
And in fact, the surprising ending is what makes WARRIOR truly a must-see. It is a great film not because it pulls a lot of punches in the cage, but because the characters are so heartbreakingly human you're willing to share the suffering.