The movie is so skillfully made, and the performances are so convincingly real (Hardy is sensational), that, as it reaches its cathartic, winning finish, it achieves a surprising compassion and honesty.
Warrior's three principle characterizations are compelling - Nolte in particular gives a tempered performance as the shambling, sad-eyed wreck of a dad - but not enough to mask the film's lesser elements.
It's also a fight movie that knows all the fight movie cliches and doesn't shy away from embracing them wholeheartedly. But it hits its marks and hits them well, and feels fresh even as it traffics so deeply in the familiar.
Nolte's performance is masterful, marshalling together pain and regret and a slowly dawning comprehension in a single wince. But all this film has going for it besides him are its incredibly brutal fight scenes.
Lovers of the sport and macho men in general be warned: Warrior is so beautifully constructed and emotionally engaging, the tears are almost certain to fall. Bring a hankie and/or a very discreet companion.