Written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Directed by David O. Russell
Running Time: 1:54
Rated R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.
The Fighter was a terrific film, one of my favorites of 2010, all anchored by a tremendous performance by Christian Bale.
Micky Ward (no E) is an up and coming boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts who is trained by his older half-brother Dicky. Dicky is known as the "Pride of Lowell" since he himself used to be a professional boxer. Dicky's big claim to fame is going toe-to-toe with the great Sugar Ray Leonard, and knocking him down during their fight (before eventually losing). An HBO crew is following Dicky around doing a documentary on his comeback and Dicky couldn't be prouder. Except in reality, they're following him around because they're doing a documentary on drug addiction and how far people can fall. Micky loves his brother so much he can't imagine boxing without him, but Dicky's drug addiction keeps holding Micky down. So when Dicky gets arrested and tossed in jail, Micky finally has the chance to get out from under his shadow, and the domineering shadow of his mother/manager, and make something of himself. With his new girlfriend Charlene, Micky manages to fight himself back into contention, and a shot at a world title. But as the title bout comes near, Dicky is let out of prison and wants to go back to work with his little brother, threatening to derail all of Micky's success.
I am not a big Mark Wahlberg fan (as an actor, I still love him and the Funky Bunch) so I didn't have high hopes for The Fighter, but I completely changed my mind the second I saw Christian Bale. Wahlberg still doesn't do much for me, but as a producer he and director David O. Russell did a great job in surrounding Wahlberg with a tremendous cast that held the entire film together. Bale gives a performance unlike any other I've seen. He gets completely lost in the character of Dicky, the washed-up, drug addicted former boxer who lives on his past glories, as well as the coattails of his younger brother. The physical transformation of Bale was amazing, as he once again seemed to have lost a lot of weight for a role, and they did a job on his teeth to make his face look even more sunken in. He completely takes over any scene he's in, but not with some over-the-top performance, but with a sad, yet at times hopeful, portrayal of a man fighting his inner demons and often losing. Melissa Leo plays Micky's mother, an overbearing, hardheaded woman who feels like she, and only she, knows how to handle Micky's career. She pulls no punches and is not afraid to use every tactic in the book to get what she wants. And since Micky is a big believer in family, with what appeared to be at least 6-7 brothers and sisters, the old guilt trip works well on him. Amy Adams was as stripped down (literally and figuratively) as I've ever seen her in the role of Micky's new girlfriend Charlene. When I saw her I wasn't sure if the girl who is most famous for playing a princess could pull off the role of a bartender from Lowell, but she did a great job. Wahlberg was his normal self in this film. I have yet to see anything new from him since he started acting, with most of his lines sounding like he's running out of breath, but he definitely looks like a boxer and was a good choice for that role.
The boxing scenes were fantastic, looking unlike most boxing films in that people actually looked like they were getting hit. As opposed to the Rocky films where the punches miss by a mile. I wouldn't be surprised if Wahlberg and his fellow boxers really got hurt a few times doing this. But for a movie called The Fighter, this wasn't a movie about boxing - the title really could be about fighting for your own survival. Micky had to fight to get out from under his family if he wanted to succeed in the world. And Dicky needed to fight his demons to get to a clean and sober point in his life where he could stop disappointing people. And lest you think this movie is a down and dirty and depressing film, it's not. There is actually a lot of humor in it, which I think is one of the reasons I liked it so much. With the story lines, it could have easily gone the route of a movie like The Wrestler which, while amazing in its own right, was definitely darker and more serious. The Fighter did a wonderful job of having a serious and moving story but keeping it lighthearted enough that the audience wouldn't want to kill themselves afterwards. I read up about Micky Ward afterwards, and while the movie is based on his life, it did take some small liberties with the story. I don't think the changes were anything major though, and editing out some of his real life made for a better film. We even get to see the real brothers at the end of the film. The movie was completely unexpected for me and definitely one of my favorites of the year. I fully expect Bale to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar (even though an argument could be made, the movie is more about his character than Wahlberg's) and I expect the film to get nominated for Best Picture.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I really liked The Fighter. I wasn't expecting much going in, but I was blown away by the performances, especially Christian Bale, who takes it to a whole other level in this one. Definitely worth seeing.