At Hollywood Jesus, we’re doing a month-long look at our favorite Indie movies, and this one is one of the best! A story about love, family, forgiveness, and … MMA(?!), it takes our struggles and makes them physical as two brothers try to figure out how to make sense of their past, their present, and their futures. Enjoy… then go check out the other reviews posting at HJ.
I’m no fan of MMA but I saw Warrior nearly by accident and was hooked instantaneously. Set against the backdrop of a pro-am MMA challenge, Tom Hardy’s depiction of Tommy Riordan, as a tortured Marine, served in sharp contrast to Joel Edgerton’s portrayal of his high school teacher brother, Brendan, as both sought the approval of their now-sobered father’s, Paddy (Nick Nolte). As both advance in the tournament, aiming to win $5 million dollars, one for the family of a fallen comrade and the other to keep his family from being foreclosed on, the two brothers verbally spar with each other and their father over the drug use, sickness, and divorce that ripped their family apart. What draws them together is a male-order version of “talking things out,” but this type involves four fists and a cage.
I’m not pro-fighting, but I recognize that Gavin O’Connor’s best story to date depicts a metaphysical healing taking place on a completely different level. Both brothers have reason to be upset with each other, angry at their father, distrustful of the world they’ve been told to exist in. Tommy’s denial of a good god isn’t rejection that God exists, but a questioning after what it means for us to suffer and survive. Tommy’s anger is really an outward symptom of his inner pain, exploding in a flurry of fists on unsuspecting fighters who don’t really stand a chance. It’s actually tied to Tommy’s own actions, decisions, and consequences. Tommy is actually most like Paddy, who listens to Moby Dick, and grieves Ahab’s quest for a whale out of reach; is the desire to be known, to be accepted, to be loved and forgiven, too much for either of these men to ever really achieve?
On the other side, Brendan fights for different reasons. Quite literally, he fights for love, for family, for home, and a future. He fights for what the world could be like rather than what it was like or what he’s angry to have missed out on. He fights, even as others doubt him, even as the commentators (their thoughts are hilarious the second time around) throw him under the bus. He fights to win, rather than not to lose, urged on by Frank Grillo’s Frank Campala (in Grillo’s best role to date). With his wife, his family, his school behind him, this is not <em>Here Comes The Boom</em>, this is grit, and heart, and family, and a “worked out” forgiveness all packaged in one battle. But in a championship tournament, only one brother can walk away as the champion, only one brother can win the $5 million.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think that I’d do anything for my family. I’d like to believe I would suffer, fight, sweat, even die, to keep my family safe, to take care of them. But I know that family can be tough; the people who know us the best are also the ones who can hurt us the most. The fractures in Paddy’s family aren’t ones I’ve lived through but they are ones I understand. Who can bear the weight of those things? Who can survive? Obviously, these three men are struggling through, not surviving, and it would take a great feat to bring them together, to help them build community, to build family, again in a way that would help them heal. In the end, forgiveness would be necessary, grace would have to wash over all of them. Sometimes though, forgiveness must be worked through, as a process, with sweat and blood, not easily surrendered but rather fought for. Sometimes, others fight for that forgiveness for us, like Jesus did on the cross; sometimes, we have to fight for ourselves.
Want to reconsider your family? Want to make things right? Check out the ending of this movie, and leave the tissues behind– I dare you.