The Fighter, 2010.
Directed by David O. Russell.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo.
An inspirational drama exploring the remarkable rise of Massachusetts-born junior welterweight boxing champion “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg).
It seems like every single week through 2011 a new Oscar nominated and much hyped film hits our cinemas and this week’s installment is The Fighter. David O. Russell’s vision of the true story behind “Irish” Micky Ward’s rise to become the boxing welterweight world champion has been nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Directed, Best Supporting Actor for Christian Bale and Best Supporting Actress for Amy Adams.
The film follows Micky (Mark Wahlberg), an aspiring boxer who’s lost his last three fights and is seemingly going nowhere under the management of his mother (Melissa Leo) and training of his brother, Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale). Dicky was once a great boxing prospect himself and fought Sugar Ray Leonard at his peak, but now spends most of his time smoking crack and living off his past glory. When Micky hits a new low after being beaten by a man 20 pounds heavier than himself he begins to question the support of his family and finds comfort in the arms of Charlene (Amy Adams).
When Dicky goes to prison and Micky cuts all ties with his family things begin to look up. Micky wins fight after fight against all the odds and with a little help from Dicky via his prison cell. When Dicky is released from prison and Micky has a chance to fight for the world championship his family think he would be best under their management, but his new team that includes Charlene refuse to work with Micky’s family. Dicky swallows his own pride for the sake of his brother and convinces both sides of the team to unite behind Micky in his bid to be world champion.
At a meagre $11 million dollars to make The Fighter cost the Hollywood equivalent of peanuts, but is in no way cheap. In fact the film is rich with emotion, conflict, family drama and some great performances. Christian Bale is quite rightly being tipped for an Oscar for his role as crack addict Dicky with his scrawny cheeks and addict ticks and mannerisms. However, he wasn’t the only person lighting up the screen.
The biggest surprise for me was the performance of Amy Adams as Charlene. The only previous role of Adams’ that springs to my mind was her turn as young and naïve nurse, Brenda Strong, in Catch Me If You Can. Her role in The Fighter is the complete opposite end of the acting scale as the beer-swigging barmaid with an attitude, Charlene. Her grimaces, snarls, attitude and all around performance stood out as my misconception of her abilities were proven wrong by depth and range. A good tip for an Oscar me thinks.
The other members of the supporting cast all play great roles to support the typically flat and wooden Mark Wahlberg. I couldn’t quite work out if Micky really was as dull and vacant in his expressions as Wahlberg played him or if he was just putting in another one of his identically average performances. Saying that, this role was about right for him I suppose – tough guy from the mean streets who isn’t too bright and stuff.
The Fighter is a great film that deals with one boxer’s dilemma in trying to achieve his own dreams without upsetting his family. Russell shows us a man who has nothing else going for him except his ability box and without it him and his family would all have nothing. There are some touching moments of love and friendship from Micky and his family, sad and pitiful moments of delusion from Dicky and some hilarious moments of family madness as they collide throughout the film.
There are also some fantastic moments in the film that juxtapose the dreams of success with the reality of life. Dicky being followed by HBO, who are supposedly making a documentary about his comeback, is pitiful when the show airs and the reality of the documentary hits home. Micky’s seven almost identically trashy sisters giving Charlene grief as they sit and discuss Micky’s next fight is a fantastic reality check as they sit in his mother’s shabby front room talking of striving to be world champion. There are some genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments too with Micky realising that the ring for his one fight is in the building across the road from his changing room and he has to cross the road in his shorts and dressing gown.
The Fighter isn’t just a blokey film about boxing, but a tale of hopes, dreams and the effect family has on those things. There’s fun, family, love and drama mixed in amongst craziness, idiocy and anger. Russell’s down to earth tale of working class aspiration hampered by blind family loyalty and suffocation doesn’t try to be too clever. It’s a simple tale of interesting characters and their dreams with some nice touches of filmmaking class. The Fighter is defo worth a watch on a weekend of seemingly non-stop sport.
The Fighter was released today in UK cinemas.
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