The Fighter

Should I go see this movie?

You should see The Fighter for the emaciated face of Christian Bale acting at his method-best, slipping inside the role of ex-boxer Dicky Eklund to bring us a vision of cocaine-addled charisma; for Amy Adams’ feisty character of Charlene, who chomps and bites out each line of dialogue as if she was the only sassy bar girl worth your attention. And you should see this movie for the authentic depiction of blue-collar Massachusetts.

So, what’s it all about?

It’s based on the life of professional boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a welterweight who retired from boxing in 2003. The Fighter follows his

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund in The Fighter

progress from small-time matches to a championship fight and the problems he has with his family and older half-brother Dicky (Bale), who acts as his trainer and is famous for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard. Amy Adams plays Charlene, Ward’s girlfriend, and there’s a terrific performance by Melissa Leo as Alice Ward, Micky’s mother and matriarch to nine children.

Can Mark Wahlberg really act?

The jury’s still out. In every film his dour and frowning face remains, and he’s been typecast as a tough guy. His role as the smart-ass police detective in The Departed was enjoyable, and he should explore his comedic potential. As Micky Ward, I wasn’t convinced he really loved his brother, as he no doubt does, and his desire to win a championship is only half-fleshed by Wahlberg. In fact, there’s a distinct lack of chemistry between the leading actors, and the brotherly camaraderie between the two boxers, which should be obvious, is only fleetingly seen. But The Fighter probably represents Wahlberg’s best work in his persuasive portrayal of a straight and quietly determined Ward.

Bale has gotten most of the plaudits, due to the more idiosyncratic nature of the character he plays. Dicky is a wiry, slithering figure and Bale had to work hard – the director David O. Russell has said the part required more than mimicry: “Dicky has a whole rhythm to him, a music. Christian had to understand how his mind works.”

What are the fight scenes like?

The fight scenes in boxing movies range from the highly stylised (Raging Bull) to the dramatic (Rocky) to the very realistic which is where The Fighter sits. Wahlberg endured real punches for this film, but there is no real sense of pain, with the scenes more revealing of boxing technique than kinetic action. More sparring between the two brothers, who have contrasting boxing styles, would have added value whilst more boxing action in general would’ve been appreciated.

Amy Adams as Charlene

Is a boxing film a good vehicle to explore themes of family, sibling love and drug addiction?

David O. Russell uses a film-within-a-film device to explore Dicky’s addiction, with a HBO documentary crew following the brothers. There’s a great scene when the resulting documentary airs and we see Bale speaking to the camera, who displays a wincing construction of ambition derailed. Indeed I thought the documentary looked like a better film than the TV movie rhythms of the actual feature, and would’ve probably been more revealing.

The relationship between the brothers is fairly straightforward, while the smothering family, with a retinue of pecking sisters, showed how Micky was kind of used by his family for money. This film has few intimate scenes of dialogue, no drunken or lonely moments, or moments of quiet which reveal deeper considerations. There are no great speeches, save perhaps the one mentioned above, with Dicky in the HBO doc. It’s an undemanding movie, which shows the background of a boxer’s career, which is lost in the glitzy commentary of a real-life boxing match, where an ESPN man might condense a boxer’s life into one sentence…”And here’s Micky Ward who’s had some problems recently”.

For small-time dramas, The Fighter is worth the pay-per-view.



2 Responses to “The Fighter”

  1. 1 CMrok93 February 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Impressively directed and superbly written, this is an emotionally arresting boxing drama with a quartet of terrific performances from Wahlberg, Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. Good Review, check out mine when you can!

  1. 1 Tweets that mention The Fighter « orangeleg films -- Trackback on February 7, 2011 at 1:58 am

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