Perhaps because it's being released less than a year after The Fighter, Warrior has already been relentlessly compared to that drama which likewise focuses on two brothers involved with a pounding sport (boxing there, mixed martial arts here). I had problems with The Fighter (starting with Melissa Leo's canvas-chewing performance, which inexplicably won her an Oscar), but on balance, I have more with Warrior, which does a nice job of mostly subverting the inevitable genre clichés but has trouble coming up with anything new to fill the void.
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play the slugging siblings: Hardy's Tommy Conlon is a former Marine who's battling all manner of personal demons, while Edgerton's Brendan is a teacher who's forced back into the ring in order to make money and prevent foreclosure on his home. Both have their eyes on winning the championship, but first, they need to undergo the proper training and then beat a formidable slate of opponents if they expect to make it to the final match.
Director-cowriter Gavin O'Connor and team ably set up the dire circumstances that blanket these men's lives, particularly their relationship with their estranged father Paddy (Nick Nolte, simply superb). But because we know exactly which two characters will end up in the championship bout (despite the challenge of a hulking Russian straight out of Rocky IV), the home stretch occasionally becomes tedious, with the emphasis shifting from character development to repetitive slugfests. Worse, Hardy and Edgerton barely have any scenes together, which drains their climactic confrontation of much of its power. I suspect many men will nevertheless tear up at the end, but if this is supposed to be the successor to Brian's Song, it's slightly off-key.