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The Demons Within: Why ‘Warrior’ is Not Just Another Sports’ Movie

Hate them as we might, we all tend to sit down every now and then to watch a cliché’ movie; you know, the kind of movie which you know how it would end from the very first minute. And I believe it would not be an exaggeration to say that sports movies have the biggest share of the cheesy list.

For example, the old Rocky series (by that, I mean the old tetralogy) is one of the most popular in the genre; but we cannot deny that it has always been an established fact that Rocky, eventually, was going to win not so much because of his position as the hero as it is because of how his opponent was often forcefully perceived as less of a nemesis and more of a villain (e.g. the Russian from Rocky 4)

And it’s not only like that with boxing movies; the same goes with football, baseball, and basketball flicks. It seems like they are always bound to go through the same sequence, starting with the ambitious stubborn protagonist who is trying to prove themselves, followed by their rise and fall where they shine just before they get beaten by the antagonist, and ending with the evergreen “get up and show them who is the goddamn boss” speech and their eventual victory.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see an offbeat movie that – to a reasonable extent – breaks the taboos of its own genre, and in the case of sports’ movies, Warrior is indeed a notable exception.

In this Gavin O’Connor’s 2011 movie, we follow the story of the disturbed mysterious ex-marine Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy) and his brother, the struggling family man Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) who both, because of their father’s (Nick Nolte) abusive behavior and their mother’s illness, have parted ways – literally and figuratively – a long time ago with the only two things that they still have in common being the anger they hold against their old man and their love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

The two main characters, for different albeit justified reasons, enter Sparta, an MMA competition which, unknowingly to both of them, sets them on a collision course towards their long-time delayed inevitable clash. Surprisingly, Tommy and Brendan meet on screen only once before the final fight, but it’s more than enough for us to understand where they both are coming from.

So what is different about this movie? It is almost impossible to categorize any of the two as either the villain or the hero of the story. In Rocky, you always knew that the titular protagonist was going to win not because he is a good boxer, but due to the fact that he is the titular good guy. In Warrior, the lines are blurred. You don’t want either of them to lose.


Tommy might seem to be the antagonist for the bitter part of the movie because of his aggressive ruthless behavior towards the two remaining members of his family, but both his past and his true motive – which is not revealed till near the end of the movie – do not only justify his actions; they end up making you root for him.

Some might argue that the villain is their father, which might be true to a great extend; however, this wrecked aging man’s relentless honest attempts to redeem himself in the eyes of his boys – and perhaps the fact that there are no flashbacks to show you how abusive he was, you only hear about that from Tommy’s and Brendan’s stories – make you discard that one bit at a time, with the final blow to his villainous state being a specific scene where Nolte gives a performance that may very well leave you with watery eyes.

It is impossible to tell which one of them is going to win before the bell of the final match where they collide rings while The National’s heartwarming bittersweet song About Today plays in the background.

By the end of the movie, you realize that this is not a good-guy-vs-bad-guy story or a keep-fighting-till-you-make-it aspiring sports movie; this is actually – and simply – a story about two grown up kids who are forced to fight the one thing they have been running from and ignoring for almost their entire lives: their inner demons.

Because, honestly… aren’t we all on the run from our own ones?

What do you think of Warrior? Share with us your opinions in the comments.

About Ahmed Gharib (5 Articles)
A lone wolf whose last name literally means “Weird.” Born and raised in Cairo, yet doesn’t have the sense of belonging to a single place. He has no certain favorite genre of music. His playlist is mostly a compilation of songs he heard in a movie, a TV show or a video game along with some friends’ recommendations. Yet, he could listen to Alexi Murdoch, Poets of the Fall, Woodkid and The Last of Us’s OST 24/7. Good with numbers, yet ironically suck at his own major; that is accounting. Writing is the one thing he has been practicing longer than anything else he has ever done. He has a thousand different worlds occuping his head that are partially created on paper, but mostly still echoing off the walls of his grey matters. A firm believer that any character could be perceived as the hero if the story was told from their own perspective.

1 Comment on The Demons Within: Why ‘Warrior’ is Not Just Another Sports’ Movie

  1. Here is to the longest three seconds at the end of every Sport’s game endgame match! I loved how you address this in your introduction.
    The part of “because of their father’s (Nick Nolte) abusive behavior and their mother’s illness, have parted ways – literally and figuratively” stirred something in me; I watched the movie and I recalled the two brothers meeting for the first time, on the beach, distant and apart even in symbolism and them both knowing that they bear phantoms of malice towards each other even though they know it is not justified in the sorts. It was brief, to the point and too intense to bear after all this build-up. And the part of “you don’t want either of them to lose” is the quintessence of the whole movie’s impact. Well said indeed! I look forward to more well-crafted reviews from you and I sincerely enjoyed reading this. 
    The inner demons, huh? You can say that again…


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