I sit through some of Wendy’s chick-flicks. Wendy sits through some of my violent movies. We typically grumble about each other’s tastes, but sometimes the movie surpasses our expectations and appeals to both of us. Warrior is one of those movies.

Definitely violent. The movie has in-the-ring (that is, in-the-cage) closeups. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a brutal sport. Gladly, though, the violence isn’t gory. Sure, there were blackened eyes and sweaty punches, but no slow-mo blood spurting or horrific gore that would make you cringe. The movie wasn’t about shock. It was about real toughness.

Relationships are tougher than throwing punches, and relationship is what Warrior is about. These relationships are incredibly complex, but the complexity was easy to follow, easy to identify. We discover:

  • Father is a recovering alcoholic, nearly at his 1000 day mark, when one of his two sons returns — bottle in hand ready to booze up with pops. Tension. Son asks dad to train him for MMA, dad agrees, but son makes it clear that no relationship will develop.
  • Meanwhile, Son #2 is off raising three daughters with his wife, a family that Pops is forbidden to see. This son runs into financial trouble and seeks training to start fighting again. Go figure, in MMA.
  • The two sons make their way to the top — separate from one another, still bitter about old family dysfunction — ultimately duking it out in the ring for the National Sparta Championship Title. (No spoiler warning there, but let me just say that the ending is done very well, and no one in the theater could’ve anticipated it.)

Throughout the movie, Wendy and I appreciated each character. We understood, in a sense, where they were coming from, how they were struggling in their relationships. That’s what makes this movie a real winner. For example,

  • Paddy (Nick Nolte), the father, is a born-again believer, AA member, grieving his past and trying to heal relationships with his adult kids. He can take only what he is offered, which makes his pain incredibly real. He takes the verbal abuse from his kids well, but you see the pain in him, and you identify. Nolte should get an Academy Award for some of these scenes. They reflect truthfully the conflicts that every parent eventually go through when their children are adults of their own.
  • Tommy (Tom Hardy) is a ticked off drunk. He is so full of bitterness. But we can all be bitter at times, find ourselves angry at our family members — so angry and upset over whatever that we resent, alienate others and even ourselves, maybe lash out. I don’t have any brothers, but I have three sisters, and we’ve had our share of conflicts over the years that led to its equal share of bitterness. Such a waste. Seeing it on the silver screen brings it home.
  • Brenden (Joel Edgerton) is the clean-cut adult, married with three daughters, and a physics teacher. Boy, can I relate to Brenden. Though he seems like the most healthy of the family — ready to forgive and forget — he still has deep issues that he struggles with, issues especially toward his father. Now, I love my dad and we have a great relationship, but the years haven’t all been peachy. I totally related with Brenden at the most dramatic scenes in the movie.

One more point. This movie wasn’t a cheesy Christian movie. Paddy was definitely walking with Jesus, but he struggled to be real, tried his hardest to walk the line, failing at times. Every character had their issues. No one was the squeaky clean Christian, and we appreciate that. Why? Because none of us are squeaky clean Christians. We all have issues, and sometimes we have to fight extreme pain to work through them.

Fight like a warrior. The director told Plugged In that the title Warrior had a double meaning. “The intention of the title had more to do with spiritual warfare,” he said. We like to think of spiritual warfare is all about demons and angels fighting “out there” in another world. The reality is that it is often in our hearts, in our homes, and between the very people we ought to love.

I don’t want to give away details of the movie. I already gave away much of the drama (the chick-flick parts), but there’s a lot more to it than this. If you saw the movie, let me know what you thought. Comment below…

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.