Warrior movie takes place in the powerful and relentless world of mixed martial arts. And I am absolutely sure that Gavin O’Connor mustered it with a single, unambiguous goal in mind – to knock you out, and he did it!

Joel Edgerton plays Brendan, a dedicated educator, ex-fighter and a devoted family man. His students adore him, he needs make some extra money to pay debts, he is starting fights for cash in parking lots. But he and his family, indeed, under water, carrying debt on their modest house in Philadelphia and moreover one of their children requires expensive medical care. So there is no other way than sign up for Sparta winner-take-all tournament, where meets best of the best for the prize of 5 million USD. Brendan enlists old comrade-in-arms Frank Campana, now an unorthodox instructor who likes his people to train to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, to get him ready for the tourney.

On the other hand we have Tom Hardy who is playing Tommy, Brendan’s estranged younger brother. He came back to alcoholic father, Paddy, a wrestling coach, who ruined family and made brothers enemies. Tommy is former Marine who served in Iraq and looking for a fight, and without forgiving his sobered-up, apologetic dad, he engages the old man’s professional services as he prepares to go into the ring. He just showes up in the old boxing gym and knocked out the middleweight contender in a few minutes.

Tom Hardy is one of the most talented young actor of nowadays, who trained under Sir Anthony Hopkins, so see him on the screen is always a pleasure and a sign of a good movie. He perfectly played the notorious strong-man moustache Bronson, the “most violent prisoner in Britain”. Hardy iswas unrecognizable and gave a harrowing performance that is physically fearless and psychologically unsettling. He won a British Independent Film Award for best actor and this got Hollywood’s attention and, in 2009, Hardy was named one of Variety’s “10 actors to watch”.

Turning back to the film review, Tommy is the exact opposite of his brother and his style of fighting recalls that of the young, unbeatable Mike Tyson. He attacks with a combination of speed and strength that turns an opponent’s bravado into fear in a matter of seconds. Brendan is like Fedor Emelyanenko, relies more on technical finesse and wrestling experience.

Actors had to take trainings for the movie seriously. They had to be at the fight club at 7 or 8 o’clock, train till 3, 4 in the afternoon, and at lunchtime they were loading up, trying to get heavier. They did two hours of boxing, two hours of jujitsu, two hours of weights, two hours choreography, two hours of weight-lifting before they could go home late that night — for six or seven days a week for about 10 weeks.

Stunt coordinator J. J. Perry did a great job with a help of fight choreographer Sam Hargrave, who previously worked on Blood and Bone with Michael Jai White, Mechanic with Jason Statham and Conan The Barbarian. J.J. Perry is the well known guy in martial arts world. He started his martial arts training in 1975 and began with stunt-work in the late 1980s when he got out of the army. He has had over 25 years of martial arts training and has a 5th-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a 2nd-degree on Hapkido and has experience with all kinds of weapons. His mostly known for martial arts movies Undisputed 2 and 3 with Scott Adkins, Martial Law TV series with bodyguard/">Sammo Hung and upcoming Haywire.

In Sparta you can see a fearsome Russian Koba who recalls Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, wears red uniform with hammer and sickle. Come on, guys! It is XXI century, there is no USSR anymore and nobody wears red with such stupid design, we live in Tapout brand times. And what the irrelevant entrance song is playing when Koba is walking to the ring? Vysotskiy? The song with words “Slow down, horses, please, slow down…”??? Is that what you think will help fighter to be in the mood to fight?

Koba played by Kurt Angle, he is a 1996 Olympic Gold Medal winner in the 220lbs weight category. First ever wrestler to hold the WCW and WWF World Championships during the same calendar year, and has held WWF, Intercontinental, European and Hardcore championships all on separate occasions. Producers invited Kurt because saw this pure Eastern Bloc European look that resembled the look of the fighter they wanted, which was Fedor, and they wanted him to portray Fedor as much as possible. He even took Russian dialect classes so could learn how to speak Russian. Unfortunately, because of the fact that Fedor doesn’t talk much, producers did not add that into the movie.

In the beginning Warrior reminded me the Gradiator movie with James Marshall, a boxing drama about Tommy Riley, who moved with his dad to Chicago and goes to school. However, after a street fight he is noticed and quickly falls into the world of illegal underground boxing – where punches can kill. In 1992 Rowdy Herrington, the director of classic actioner Road House, filmed a great boxing movie, which was undeservedly forgotten by most of people… but not me. But Gavin O’Connor takes this story more seriously, he made a very strong boxing drama full of deep feelings, irreconcilable conflicts and tough fights, created a vehicle for the characters to express emotion.

Actors did an excellent job. Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were so true to MMA, very realistic. I was blown away by their performances and I wouldn’t be surprised if Nick Nolte got an Academy Award for his performance.

2 hours 19 minutes of a pure boxing drama, which fairly can be called the Rocky of nowadays. So give yourself a break for 2 hours and watch, and later discuss Warrior with your friends and family.

Very recommended.