Blu-ray Review: Warrior

Warrior Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Gavin O’Connor | CAST: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morisson, Frank Grillo
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/20/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: featurettes, enhanced viewing, gag reel, deleted scene, commentary
SPECS: PG-13 | 140 min. | Sports Drama | 2.40: 1 aspect ratio | 7.1 DTS-HD audio | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

A fight movie in its most basic description, Warrior is really like Rocky squared, serving up lots of drama and not one, but two likely champions to root for.

WarriorWarrior follows estranged brothers Brendan (Joel Edgerton, Animal Kingdom) and Tommy (Tom Hardy, Inception) who share a talent for fighting and a bitter dislike of their alcoholic father (Nick Nolte, Cape Fear). The conflict between the brothers comes to a head when Tommy comes back into town and enlists his now-sober dad as a trainer for a big mixed martial artists fight. Meanwhile, Brendan turns back to fighting when the bank threatens to take his house and eyes the same big fight after he’s suspending from his teaching job. Much action and cathartic emotion ensue.

The film’s fights are brutal, heavy and precise, as they should be for a fight movie. But Warrior offers plenty of conflict outside of the ring too, and that’s what elevates this movie into Rocky status ā€” and broadens the movie’s audience behind fight fanatics. Like Rocky, Warrior has underdogs trying to make good, but these underdogs have more than a big need for a monetary win, they also have their own baggage they need to work through.

The cast is solid across the board ā€” it’s a shame they were ignored in the Golden Globes. Edgerton and Hardy bring different emotions but the same depth to their troubled brothers, and Nolte is sympathetic as the embattled father who’s trying to make good. Jennifer Morisson (TV’s Once Upon a Time) is good as Edgerton’s supportive but worrisome wife and supporting player Frank Gillo (My Soul To Take) is fine as Edgerton’s reluctant coach.

Hardy is relatively new to U.S. audiences, but he was nominated for a BAFTA Award (British Academy Award) for his leading role in British film Stuart: A Life Backwards and we’re happy to see him get more mainstream work now. Catch him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Director and co-screenwriter Gavin O’Connor (Miracle) builds Warrior‘s story slowly, keeping the tension high out of the ring and giving viewers a release with every well-timed punch-fest. Information about the earlier lives of Tommy, Brendan and their father is dribbled out until the end, providing many ah ha moments that thicken the plot.

On Blu-ray, the film looks great, but its grainy style is a bit obvious in the high-definition picture, providing more of a distraction than character. But the sound is top-notch, especially with Lionsgate’s laudable inclusion of 7.1 DTS-HD. The audio makes the Blu-ray version worthy of investment alone.

Lionsgate also has excelled in the special features category with this Blu-ray, adding plenty of extras that delve into the story and the film’s production in a mostly interesting way.

In the enhanced viewing option of the movie, O’Connor and various filmmakers and actors give interviews as Warrior plays in picture-in-picture. O’Connor explains that as a young filmmaker, he built his love of the craft through watching DVD featurettes that revealed how the magic behind the movie was made. As such, he’s quick to explain how things were done, although they do leave some behind-the-scenes tricks secret. The “Full Contact” enhanced viewing also shows rehearsal and choreography footage.

O’Connor also talks in a commentary with Edgerton and other filmmakers. They keep the conversation moving, giving lots of information, with Edgerton more quiet than the others.

The Blu-ray also has a nice deleted scene with Nolte telling Hardy about his time in war, playable with an optional commentary in which O’Connor raves about Nolte’s performance in the scene and his heartbreak over having to cut it.

Plus, there’s a storyboard-to-film breakdown of the movie’s biggest fight scene and behind-the-scenes featurettes, including “Philosophy in Combat,” a look at MMA and the fight strategies used in the movie.

One special featurette, “Simply Believe,” is a tribute to Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr., one of the founders of MMA’s TapOut who was a consultant on the film but was killed in a car accident before the movie was finished. It’s a touching piece that looks at the charismatic Mask and what he built and shows how much respect the filmmakers have for him. Footage of Mask’s memorial service is maybe a little intrusive, but all in all, the featurette is a good tribute to someone who’s important to MMA fans.

And it’s fitting that it’s on the Blu-ray for Warrior, a film that will no doubt also become important for MMA fans, as well as any fans of fight films and drama movies.


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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husbandā€™s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.