From the moment that the trailer of Warrior was publicized, the buzz surrounding the film largely consisted of two questions: Why did it give away the ending in the preview? And, hang on — didn’t I just see this film last year? Having seen the movie, I can assert that the former question is still puzzling, but the latter isn’t; this new film and Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 triumph, The Fighter, are two very different but equally worthwhile viewing experiences.

Warrior, directed by Gavin O’Connor, tells the story of two brothers vying to win a mixed martial arts tournament known as Sparta. One brother, Tom Conlon (Tom Hardy), is an Iraq War veteran who returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh to enlist the help of his father (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic, to coach him in mixed matrial arts. His brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is a physics teacher with an upside-down mortgage who takes up fighting to be able to support his wife and children and avoid losing his house. It soon becomes clear that this family was, at some point, fragmented due to alcoholism, domestic violence and abandonment, all of which caused resentment from the two brothers — against both their father and each other — to boil.

A film like Warrior is to men what sappy romantic comedies are to women — in short, it’s a “dude flick.” Although the film ultimately revolves around the three male relationships of the dysfunctional family, the second half of the movie consists mostly of graphic, unadulterated brutality. However, just as the occasional chick flick does appeal to men, so too will this to women — at least those who are willing to stomach the violence. Perhaps the most praiseworthy aspect of the film — and the only legitimate note of comparison that can be made to The Fighter — is that no prerequisite interest in fighting is necessary to enjoy it.

The dead giveaway of the climax in the trailer was completely unnecessary but does not overly affect the viewing experience. This is because the climax is obvious within the film’s first 15 minutes, and its resolution becomes clear at the midway point; however, the emotional response engendered by the finale is shocking. It nonetheless gives the film an appropriate and satisfying conclusion upon reflection, and the initial two hours of this 139-minute flick pass at a pleasantly swift pace.

Although the “Oscarability” of the film as a whole is up in the air, be on the lookout for Nick Nolte, whose touching performance as the ex-alcoholic patriarch of the shattered family should earn him a nomination for best supporting actor. Additionally, the relatively unknown Hardy and Edgerton, who portray the two main protagonists, also deliver commendable performances, with neither outperforming the other. Unfortunately, the massive combined talent of this trio causes the supporting cast to completely fade into the background.

Ultimately, this movie is bound to be one of the biggest surprise hits of 2011, and, whether or not you have the slightest interest in mixed martial arts, it should definitely climb to the top of your must-watch list. Its intensity, which stems equally from the violence and the raw emotional turmoil of the characters, means that it will appeal to the vast majority of moviegoers. Just make sure you bring your handkerchiefs — and if you have an aversion to violence, see it before dinner and not after.

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