Originally published Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Movie review

'Warrior': It's brother against brother in pounding drama

A movie review of Gavin O'Connor's "Warrior," about two blue-collar siblings (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton) who wind up slamming the stuffings out of each other in a climactic mixed-martial-arts cage match.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

'Warrior,' with Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison. Directed by Gavin O'Connor, from a screenplay by O'Connor, Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman. 139 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence, language. Several theaters.

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This is what brotherly love looks like.

Like a gash. Like a bruise. Like a welt.

This is what brotherly love sounds like.

Like the meaty splat of a knee to the kidney. Like the bone-crunching impact of a kick in the face.

Isn't brotherly love grand?

Not so much, really. But it's the central element in writer-director Gavin O'Connor's ponderous, pounding drama "Warrior," about two blue-collar siblings who wind up slamming the stuffings out of each other in a climactic mixed-martial-arts cage match.

This is a picture that purports to place a higher value on the fighters' finer feelings than on the extreme violence that surrounds them. Those would be feelings of alienation they feel toward each other and loathing they both feel for their dad (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic whose drunken, abusive ways tore the family apart when the brothers were boys.

Those would be feelings of despair that Brendan, a loving family man and poorly paid high-school teacher, feels thanks to life circumstances that force him to literally fight to save his home from foreclosure. Those would also be Tommy's submerged feelings of guilt over something bad that happened to him while serving as a Marine in Iraq. Both seek redemption, and a $5 million purse, in a big-time martial-arts tournament that improbably pits one against the other.

Tom Hardy (slyly effective as a member of Leo DiCaprio's dream-invading crew in "Inception"), as Tommy, gives good sullen in "Warrior," but that's all he gives. He glowers through the role with little modulation. Joel Edgerton, as Brendan, is a little more nuanced and sympathetic, but his performance, too, is largely a one-note effort.

The relationship between Tommy and his dad is supposed to be a pivotal one, but O'Connor mishandles it. Tommy despises his dad, a one-time wrestling coach, but after returning home after being away for 14 years, he nevertheless wants to be trained by the old man for the big bout. O'Connor turns the training sessions into a wordless split-screen montage, an overused lazy man's device that conveys nothing of the presumably meaningful interactions that took place between the two during the grueling workouts.

Choppy editing makes a hash out of the fight scenes, and, by the end, a Neanderthal sensibility asserts itself: A brotherly beating makes the heart grow fonder. Or to put it another way: "I love you, man. POW!"

Soren Andersen:

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