Director: Gavin O’Connor
Stars: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo
Release Date: September 9
Why we’re excited: Back in December, at the height of Oscar buzz time, we agreed with all of the love surrounding The Fighter, the Mark Wahlberg/Christian Bale boxing drama that stacked up Academy nominations. In hindsight, though, the flattering opinions went a bit overboard. Other than Bale’s virtuoso performance as an uncontrollable crackhead, The Fighter is a solid yet flawed work—a victory by decision, not a TKO.

A major reason why we’ve come to such a realization is that we’ve seen Warrior, which is basically The Fighter channeled through Tapout, not Ring Kings. And it’s far superior. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton—two great young actors at the top of their games here—star as estranged brothers from Pittsburgh; Hardy’s an emotionally detached Marine deserter, while Edgerton’s a high school physics teacher struggling to provide for his wife and kids. The one thing they share, other than family drama, is the gift of kicking tremendous ass in a mixed martial arts cage, and their mutual enrollment into a widely publicized MMA tournament leads to an inevitable showdown.

Directed and co-written by Gavin O’Connor (Pride & Glory), Warrior hits upon all of the necessary and familiar “inspirational sports drama” ticks with an expressively potent and physically brutal edge.