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Film / Warrior

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2011 film starring Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy as a pair of estranged brothers who enter a Mixed Martial Arts tournament, each for their own reasons. Also stars Nick Nolte as their father, a retired, recovering alcoholic boxer.

The film opens when the younger brother Tommy (Hardy) returns to Pittsburgh after leaving with his mother years ago to escape his father's out-of-control alcoholism. He begins working out at a local gym and asks his father Paddy (celebrating 1000 days on the wagon) to train him for the Sparta tournament, a 16-contestant, single-elimination MMA tournament with a winner-take-all $5 million purse. Tommy's got a few demons in his past though, and it turns out he's not just in it for the money.

When Tommy left, his elder brother Brendan (Edgerton) moved Philadelphia for the sake of his future wife. He is a former UFC fighter, but has retired and now teaches high school physics. He's having trouble making ends meet however, and his house is on the brink of foreclosure, so he starts fighting again to supplement his income. Turns out the school board doesn't approve of him moonlighting as a cage fighter, so he ends up suspended without pay from his teaching position. He knows it's a longshot, but if he can win the Sparta tournament, he'd be able to keep his house. This, of course, puts him on a collision course with Tommy, who still resents him for staying with their father while Tommy took care of their ailing mother.


Unrelated to the comic book.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Several. All are Truth in Television in fact.
    • Tess perfectly represents the reluctant wife of a fighter whose husband competes in a Blood Sport in order to keep their family afloat.
    • The Conlon men perfectly show perhaps the very worst thing that can happen to a Dysfunctional Family: having them very distant to you and despise you.
    • Unlike Tess above, Paddy defies the "seeing your children compete in a Blood Sport" fear and even encourage them, or at least Tommy, to do it. Once his sons compete against each other at the finals, he plays the "my kids are hurting each other really bad" fear completely straight.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Inverted. Brendan actually tries to reach out to Tommy, while Tommy is actually the one who is dismissive.
  • And Starring: Nick Nolte in the CBB.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Tommy is quite a Jerkass towards Brendan.
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  • Apologetic Attacker: Brendan, when he realizes Tommy won't concede the fight even with a dislocated shoulder, apologizes as he puts him in the match-ending chokehold.
  • Artistic License – Sports: One character very obviously gets his arm broken in the middle of a bout, but continues to fight on. In reality, getting your arm broken would result in an immediate stoppage, no matter how much you want to continue fighting.
  • As Himself: A few MMA personalities who appear in the film play themselves:
    • Stephan Bonnar and Rashad Evans both appear as themselves on ESPN
    • The Tapout founders Skyscrape and Punkass make several appearances
    • Referee Josh Rosenthal oversees the final bout, making several terrible calls. Non-MMA fans might be confused as to whom Frank Campana is talking to when he repeatedly chastises "Josh." It should be noted that in the credits, the character "Referee Josh Rosenthal" is credited as "Josh Rosenthal" instead of "Himself" like all the other real life personalities, presumably because the character is a comically inept referee, while Rosenthal himself was considered to be one of the best refs in the business.
  • The Atoner: Paddy to his sons.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Tommy, when he's not outright knocking out his opponents with the first punch of the first round.
  • Badass Family: The Conlons. Brendan and Tommy are promising MMA fighters, while their father Paddy is a retired boxer.
  • Badass Teacher: Brendan, who is a Physics teacher.
  • Benevolent Boss: The principal in Brendan's school, who is also a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Berserker Tears: One round after getting his shoulder dislocated by Brendan, Tommy gets these. Whether it's from the pain, or from all the circumstances he's faced with is up to interpretation.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Koba never spoke in the entire film but is a very lethal fighter. While Tommy spoke, he avoids any sort of interviews during the tournament but curb-stomped his opponents, nonetheless.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Insomuch as you can still show brotherly concern while delivering a beatdown. The slightest mention of Tommy is the only reason why Brendan didn't walk away halfway through his conversation with Paddy. More telling is Brendan's reaction to dislocating Tommy's shoulder during the final fight, and the aftermath.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Brendan gets the 5 million dollars he needs and wins the competition but Tommy gets very little closure and is about to face some serious charges. Their father's off the wagon (Tommy's fault), although it might just be a lapse, and seems to realize that keeping his distance is the best thing to do, rehabilitation or no, so he gets to keep being lonely. Tommy does seem to have forgiven Brendan and accepts him as a brother.
  • Blood Knight: Tommy has some combination of this, Death Seeker and Survivor's Guilt motivating his fights. At one point the comentators point out that if he were to fight someone outside the ring with the same level of excessive brutality (he had to be pulled off his opponents several times) he would face assault charges.
  • Blood Sport: Although the sport itself is treated pretty realistically, the idea that MMA is a brutal bloodsport where competitors could die at any moment is played up for dramatic effect, particularly with Brendan's wife.
  • Broken Ace: Tommy.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Frank Campana is known for his unusual training methods involving classical music, but damn if he gets results.
  • Butt-Monkey: Mad Dog Grimes only has two major scenes and he gets his rear absolutely handed to him by Tommy in both (Though he does bring it on himself on both occasions).
  • Byronic Hero: Tommy is a quiet, distant loner, who has very painful experiences in his family life and in the Marines. When fighting, he is very ruthless, curb-stomping his opponents in one hits. In addition, he is shown to have a certain disregard for rules, such as not attending press-conferences and leaving the ring immediately after matches. He also has quite the charisma, as he actually gains a huge number of fans because of this.
  • Cain and Abel: Subverted. The brothers' issues has nothing to do with Sibling Rivalry but more on abandonment and familial duties.
  • Celebrity Paradox: The UFC exists in this world. Several UFC fighters appear as themselves, while other UFC (and former UFC) fighters appear as fictional characters.
  • Cooldown Hug: At the end.
  • Cool Teacher: Even before Brendan's students find out about his MMA skills, it is clear that he's very popular with them. Unsurprisingly, they like him even more when they find out he's a badass MMA fighter.
  • Cultured Badass: Frank Campana trains his fighters using classical music and philosophies.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Tommy overwhelms all of his opponents save Brendan with superior speed and power, quickly defeating them in brutal fashion. His fighting style highlights his role as the Anti-Villain of the film.
    • Koba too decimates every other opponent he faces and dominates the majority of his fight with Brendan.
    • Brendan easily defeats his opponent in betting fight near the strip club.
    • Mad Dog Grimes crushes his sparring partner, needlessly without any reason.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Why Tommy left Iraq.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Brendan pulled one after the other, ultimately winning the tournament. Tommy's No Holds Barred Beat Down against Mad Dog Grimes may also fit.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: A classic example. Tommy can't set aside his resentment towards Brendan until Brendan reluctantly gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Brendan only does it because Tommy's fighting despite a dislocated arm and needs to be subdued quickly or else risk more intense injury fighting. While choking him out, Brendan asks for forgiveness in anguish and tells Tommy he loves him (keeping in mind Tommy had just gleefully tried to punch the life out of Brendan), at which point Tommy finally taps out and they embrace as brothers.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Brendan when he defeats Koba, and again when he defeats Tommy.
  • Delinquent Hair: Mad Dog sports a colorful mohawk to let us know that he's a Jerkass. He even colors it camouflage for his fight with Tommy as a Take That! to all the servicemen in the audience.
  • Determinator: This is Brendan's primary fighting style, highlighting him as the hero of the film. He's a heavy underdog all the way through, but always manages to persevere and find a way to win via sustained grappling. In the end, Tommy also shows himself to be one, but in a more tragic way. He keeps fighting even after his defeat is certain, refusing to just let go because he's determined to support his best friend's widow and he breaks down when he realizes that he can't win with one arm. This sets Tommy apart from Koba, who taps out when in the same position.
  • Domestic Abuse: When his father mentions swearing off women, Tommy mumbles that it must be hard to find a woman who can take a good punch these days.
  • The Dutiful Son: What Tommy sees Brendan as, especially since Brendan stayed behind for the sake of his wife and to care of Paddy.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Conlons have shades of this. However Brendan's family is amazingly functional.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Paddy is a lonely recovering alcoholic, Tommy has PTSD (and a lot of chips on his shoulders) and Brendan has inferiority and abandonment issues.
  • Fight Clubbing: Brendan intends to scrape together a living by fighting in "smokers," which are small-time, often unsanctioned fighting events.
  • Genius Bruiser: Brendan's physics students see him this way when they find out about his MMA moonlighting. This one's based on the real-life history of UFC middleweight Rich Franklin, a math teacher before his fighting days.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: The film portrayed its characters really well by equally highlighting their strengths and flaws.
  • Happily Married: Brendan and Tess, even if they don't always see eye to eye.
  • Hate Sink: Mad Dog Grimes. You can't hate Tommy, Brendan or Paddy because they're all too sympathetic and Koba, while the main obstacle, is just another fighter with no personal gripes with anyone. But Mad Dog Grimes is an utter asshole with no redeeming traits whose humiliation we are encouraged to enjoy.
  • Headbutt of Love: Brendan eventually gives one to Tommy after he beats him in the tournament.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Even though the movie is about two brothers, the true bromance is between Brendan and his trainer Frank.
  • Highschool Sweethearts: Brendan and Tess are a couple since high school.
  • Instant Web Hit: A video of Tommy beating Mad Dog at the gym gets uploaded on Youtube by the gym receptionist. It becomes so popular the soldiers overseas are checking it out.
  • Instant Fan Club: Tommy gets one on the second day of the tournament.
  • Jerkass: Tommy to his father, Paddy, and brother, Brendan. He later warms up to them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tommy
  • Kick the Dog: Mad Dog kicks several dogs so that we don't sympathize with him when Tommy humiliates and crushes him in the ring. He's a cocky asshole when he knocks out his first sparring partner. He also dyes his mohawk camoflauge to mock Tommy's past as a Marine.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mad Dog Grimes brags that he will take Tommy out with one punch and that he will have to pulled off. The fight does indeed play out in that manner but with Mad Dog on the receiving end.
  • Leitmotif: Brendan's trainer Frank Campana uses Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as his intro music, which is at odds with the rap and Russian music intros of the other fighters. Unlike the other fighters who psyche themselves up with strong beat Frank suggest something that make him more serene.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Tommy knocks out all his opponents early in the first round - until he fights Brendan. Koba also qualifies.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Brendan's financial troubles came from needing to pay for a heart operation for his daughter.
  • Manly Tears: The ending, both in-universe and out.
  • Megaton Punch: Something of a speciality of Tommy's. His first fight in the tournament ends really quickly courtesy of one, and his whole fighting style revolves around demolishing his opponent's defence with a barrage of knock-out punches.
    • Given that he allegedly tore part of the door of an armored personnel carrier off to rescue his comrades, it appears as though Tommy is incredibly strong, likely playing into his massive punching power.
  • Memetic Badass: Tommy becomes one in-universe after his video hits the web. He does eventually prove to be worth his fame.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: The banker shows absolutely no sympathy for Brendan's situation. At one point he rolls his eyes and mutters about how hard it is to keep all of his clients' sob stories straight.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The ring girls, as in any MMA event.
  • Mugging the Monster: After seeing Mad Dog roughing up his sparring partners (and being offered some cash), Tommy offers to fight with him. Mad Dog agrees, mocking Tommy and assuming it'll be an easy fight. 30 seconds later, Mad Dog is unconscious on the floor.
  • Multi-Character Title: There are a lot of fighters in the movie aside from the two main leads. Even their father is a retired boxer.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Advertising materials for the film states that Tommy fights for his country, which was probably true, but he is a Marine who went AWOL and during the tournament, he mainly fights for the family of his fallen friend in the corps.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The film often skirts amusingly close to actual MMA figures without quite hitting them on the nose.
    • Although some reviewers mistook the reference for a take on Rocky IV's Ivan Drago, Koba is obviously Fedor Emelianenko with the serial numbers filed off. They are both bald, stoic, tattoo-free, sambo-based, dominant Russian champs who never fought on American soil. His background also takes from the guy who plays him, Kurt Angle, as Koba is mentioned to be a gold medalist in wrestling just like Angle is.
    • Brendan's trainer Frank Campana resembles Greg Jackson, both presented as personable top-level trainers with an intellectual approach. Both trainers use classical music as part of their system.
    • Bryan Callen as a ringside color commentator is an obvious Joe Rogan impersonation. Both are brash comedians with a casual commentating style. They're also good friends in real life.
    • The sponsor of the Sparta tournament is a bald businessman who is always hanging around the press and got rich before getting into the fight game. He's a combination of the billionaire Feritta brothers who bought the UFC and the bald UFC president Dana White, an infamous media hound.
    • Brendan's story is inspired by Rich Franklin, who is also a former math teacher who made it big in MMA.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Tommy inflicts an utterly savage one of these on Mad Dog Grimes, leaving hum unconscious. The commentators seem shocked at the sheer brutality and even Tommy's manager calls for the fight to be stopped.
  • Nom de Mom: Tommy uses his late mother's maiden name to show how much he detest Paddy. Also because he went AWOL.
  • Off the Wagon: Paddy Conlon after Tommy berates him one time too many.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In the scene where Paddy visits Brendan for the first time, Joel Edgerton's Aussie accent slips out when he says "I've got a wife and kids; I don't have time for whatever this is." (It's adorable.)
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Brendan like Tommy is a newcomer to the tournament but unlike Tommy who has a lot of fame due to his video and trouncing his opponents. It doesn't help that Brendan is pinned against known and well prized fighter like Koba while Tommy has a pretty easy line up.
  • Panty Shot: Tess gets one, though without the associated Male Gaze. Probably justified as she was in bed.
  • Pet the Dog: After pushing his father back into the bottle, Tommy tucks him into bed upon discovering him drunk and despondent.
  • Pride: Brendan's main flaw is his absolute refusal to file for bankruptcy or move to a smaller house, even though his wife would rather take that option than watch him risk his life in the ring.
  • Product Placement: This film is brought to you by Tapout! The brand is plastered everywhere. The fictional tournament is sponsored by the company, its two surviving founders appear as themselves in several scenes, and the film is dedicated to the memory of late Tapout founder Charles "Mask" Lewis.
  • The Promise: Tommy's motivation in the tournament is to win the prize money for his dead best friend's family. When he's entered into Sparta, he calls the wife of the family to say to her he hasn't forgotten his promise. When Brendan pops his shoulder, in between rounds he breaks out into tears knowing he isn't going to be able to keep his promise.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Koba. He's the main obstacle in Brendan's quest but he never does anything malicious or cruel and we're never meant to assume he's a bad person in any way.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Although Brendan already had Tommy since the 3rd round, he becomes more concerned for his brother's well-being than actually winning the tournament. His wife is also obviously uncomfortable watching her husband dominating his own brother despite their urgent need for the prize money.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mommy is the red to Brendan's blue. Their gloves are Color-Coded for Your Convenience.
  • Retired Badass: The Conlons. Paddy is a retired boxer, Brendan is a former UFC fighter and comes back much better, and Tommy served in the U.S. Marines.
  • Semper Fi: Both Tommy and Paddy were in the Marines Corps.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Deconstructed. Tommy, the badass Lightning Bruiser, has huge abandonment and Parental Issues and fights brutally as an outlet for all the bad things that happened in his life. Brendan, the passionate one, has guilt for not going with Tommy and their mother (especially when he realized things went From Bad to Worse) when he decided to stay with their father despite being The Un-Favourite because he wanted to have a proper relationship with him, in addition to the only reason for him fighting again is to keep his own family afloat.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Tommy is a veteran of the Iraq war.
    • Paddy. If his drunken ramblings are historically accurate, he was reliving his closest friends and coworkers heading toward certain doom courtesy of a foolish leader.
  • Shown Their Work: While it's not perfect, the film gets quite a lot right about MMA.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Tommy's shoulder makes a very unpleasant sound when Brendan snaps it like a twig in the final fight.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: In contrast to Tommy who tends to rely on his strength and takes opponents out quickly, Brendan's fighting style consists of using all of his skills to put his opponents in knee-bars where he causes excruciating pain until they tap out. It even works against Koba who has never been defeated prior.
  • Stone Wall: Possibly Brendan. His main strategy is to wait and defend until he sees an opening. However, he's still considerably strong offensively to fit in this trope.
  • Technician vs. Performer: The contrast between Tommy and Brendan's fighting styles. Though Tommy would not care either way, he is an incredibly flashy fighter to watch: he wastes no time and goes immediately for the knockout. He usually succeeds, thanks to his extraordinary power. Brendan, by contrast, is older and relies on getting his opponents to submit instead of knocking them out. It's even lampshaded in Brendan's fight against Koba, when the play-by-play announcer remarks on Brendan's "endless bag of submissions." And, sure enough, Koba shakes off a straight armbar from side mount and a kimura wrist lock, only to fall victim to a kneebar.
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: Like the tiger Tommy uses strength and force to brutally and quickly knock out his opponents while Brendan uses Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in order to use force grappling submissions on his opponents which is like the dragon as they are more calm and calculating than the tiger because the tiger would have a fixation on brutality and effectiveness in combat.
  • Tournament Arc: The whole movie revolves around an MMA tournament.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Or rather, posters and DVD cases spoil Brendan and Tommy not only together in the ring but reconciling and leaving the cage — the last sequence of the film.
  • Training Montage: The training montage for both brothers, overlaid with commentary and Beethoven (Brendan's leitmotif).
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Brendan pulls one dark horse victory after another, ultimately winning the tournament.
  • The Unfavorite: Brendan, who was ignored by their father in favour of training Tommy.
  • Unknown Rival: Mad Dog Grimes to Tommy.
  • Victory by Endurance: Brendan runs on this in the tournament.
  • "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: Paddy.
  • Wham Line: Two In-Universe examples;
    • Brendan's "I forgave you and mom" speech to Tommy made the latter go from indifferent to extremely pissed off.
    • The Reveal that Brendan and Tommy are brothers made Brendan's co-workers and students' jaws drop.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film has no epilogue, so we never see the repercussions of Tommy's desertion nor find out what becomes of the family he promised to support.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The film relies on some Contrived Coincidences.
  • The Worf Effect: We see Mad Dog crush his sparring partner with a spinning back elbow, only to be crushed himself by Tommy the first time we see him fight.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Koba defeats an opponent with a picture-perfect powerbomb, and later nails Brendan with a German suplex. Likely an allusion to Kurt Angle's pro wrestling career.


How well does it match the trope?

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