The scariest man in movies right now might be Tom Hardy.
I first encountered him as the charming Eames in Inception, but have since caught his performance as England’s most notorious prisoner in Bronson. Now, in Warrior, he plays Tommy, a maniacal Iraq War veteran trying to take out his anger against his estranged family in the fighting ring. This becomes somewhat easier when he enters a mixed martial arts tournament against his brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton), who has put his own life on the line in order to keep his home from going into foreclosure.
It isn’t just that these are violent roles Hardy has been playing. It’s the absolute ferocity with which he occupies them. The man somehow makes his sinews seethe. If I were Christian Bale – who will appear opposite Hardy’s villainous Bane in next summer’s The Dark Knight Rises – I’d be very, very frightened.
Warrior is a familiar variation on the Rocky and Karate Kid story lines, with a dose of The Fighter-style family dynamics for good measure. Yet there is a reason, aside from Hardy, why the movie rises above such a description. Both Tommy and Brendan have been reduced to this savage state partly because of larger-than-life obstacles that are particular to our time: the Iraq War, the failing economy. And so the final match, though conventionally structured and geared for inspiration, also carries the tinge of tragedy. As Tommy and Brendan pummel each other, Warrior seems less a celebration of tough-guy heroes than a lament for what two brothers have become.