Contender Tom Hardy Channels Brando in ‘Warrior’

Tom Hardy in 'Warrior'

It’s the nick on the eyebrow that’s the giveaway. Tom Hardy is making like Marlon Brando, or at least paying tribute to him, in Warrior, a compelling drama opening today (Sept. 9). The movie is about two brothers battling for a $5 million prize in a mixed martial arts match.

In the film, Hardy sports a scarred bare patch bisecting one eyebrow, just like Brando did when he played ex-boxer Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954). (Hardy has a scarred eyebrow in real life, but I prefer to think he left it undisguised here as a nod to Brando.)

The similarities don’t end at the eyebrow. The London-born Hardy, who turns 34 on September 15, projects exactly the same sulky but sensitive broody sexiness that propelled a young Brando to stardom. Like Brando in his early roles, Hardy somehow manages to be both the toughest guy in the room and the one who hurts the most.

It’s a powerful combination and one that has helped propel Hardy, who scored big a year ago in Inception, to be considered a worthy contender for Hollywood megastardom. In addition to Warrior, he has three more major movies already in the can: The Wettest County in the World, This Means War and a star-filled remake of the John le Carré Cold War thriller, Tinker, Tailor, Sailor, Spy (his TTSS costars include Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch). And he is currently busy shooting the next Batman movie, The Dark Night Rises, on which he is reunited with Inception director Christopher Nolan.

In Warrior, Hardy plays Tommy Conlon, a former Marine who, after serving in Iraq, returns home to Pittsburgh. There, he remains estranged from and angry with his father (Nick Nolte), a longtime drunk who has only recently become sober.

Tommy, who used to box years ago, heads for the local boxing gym to work out his resentments and ends up knocking out a highly ranked mixed martial arts fighter. Soon, he’s recruited to slug and kick it out with a nine other contestants in Atlantic City for a big purse. At the same time, his brother Joel (fast-rising Australian actor Joel Edgerton), a former fighter-turned-high school physics teacher, ends up among the contestants. Will Tommy and Joel, who haven’t seen each other or spoken in years, make nice, at least outside the fighting cage? Will either man forgive his father?

With its family-at-odds plot and big fight scene finale, the movie delivers in old school style. Sure, the fight scenes are more brutal than those of bygone era movies and there’s up-to-date talk of the current woeful economy, but Warrior is at heart an old-fashioned movie.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

There’s a reason films like Rocky (1976) and even last year’s The Fighter scored with audiences. Warrior is likely to do so, too. It’s well-acted and has plenty of heart — and it has Hardy. With those three elements, how can it lose?

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In which role did you first get excited about Tom Hardy?

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