The Fighter

18 Dec

Title: The Fighter
David O. Russell
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson based on the story by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Frank Renzulli, Mickey O’Keefe
MPAA Rating:
R, language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality
115 min
Major Awards:
2 Golden Globes, 2 SAG Awards, 1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

The Fighter is one seriously good film. And everyone’s loving it, the reactions from early screenings were overwhelmingly positive, and the film scored six Golden Globe and four SAG nominations earlier this week to go with a bunch of other awards, plus it’s been performing crazy good in limited release as it makes its way to more screens this weekend.

And every good thing that has been coming its way is sincerely well deserved. This was the passion project of Mark Wahlberg for quite some time, joining the production early in 2005. The project started moving forward, Darren Aronofsky attaching himself to directing Mr. Wahlberg and Brad Pitt in the leading roles, that was in early 2007. Mr. Aronofsky was quite enthusiastic about the project as well, but delays on the production made him drop out of it, he would, of course, eventually go own to make his own movie about boxing, the masterful The Wrestler, and Brad Pitt would also leave the production.

Who knew that losing Mr. Aronofsky and Mr. Pitt could ever be considered a good thing for a movie? Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Aronofsky is one of my ten favorite living directors and I actually think The Wrestler is a better movie than this one, but David O. Russell, his eventual replacement, was just a great fit for the material. Same for Mr. Pitt, I’m certain he would have been terrific as Dicky Eklund, but when you see the performance Christian Bale ends up giving you’ll know how much of the right guy for the role this man was, and will comprehend why come Oscar time that Best Supporting Actor trophy will most likely end up in his hands.

Honestly though, The Fighter is tremendous, it has a foursome of stunning performances, those from Mr. Wahlberg, Mr. Bale as well as those by the lovely Amy Adams and the amazing Melissa Leo, the four of them will be likely Oscar nominees and the film the likely winner of both the Supporting races. When you think of great boxing movies you’ll always think of Rocky, Raging Bull, Cinderella Man, Million Dollar Baby, The Set-Up and Gentleman Jim, among others, and you can go ahead and put The Fighter right up there.

This is not just an inspirational film about boxing, it’s a great film about family and the ties that bind us to them, it’s a powerful cinematic experience, one that’s full of strong emotions and that finds the perfect people to express them, it just feels real. You know how these sports films will go, but the result is not really that important, it’s all about the journey to get there, and the journey shown in The Fighter is one of the good ones, and it has a huge amount of heart in it.

Yes, films about boxing are all full of necessary clichés, and The Fighter employs them, too, but you can feel the passion that went into making this, and that’s what makes this all work. The fights will go down as you might expect them too, as far as results go, not necessarily because you know the story of Micky Ward, but because you’ve seen other boxing movies, but in this one you can feel that Mr. Wahlberg was there for actual fighting bits, the technique shown in the fights, as well as how it’s all shot is amazing.

And that’s what makes The Fighter so damn good as far as boxing movies go, that it feels so exceptionally real. The real life people shown in the movie were there for the actors to talk to, it was shot in location there in Lowell and everything about the film transports us there. The lighting, the gritty performances, it all works to get us to understand the people of Lowell, who swear quite a bit and live in a city that, during the time our story is set, was full of poverty, unemployment and, of course, crack.

Crack is vital to our story after all, because Dicky is an addict. We know Mr. Bale can easily transform himself for roles, that’s one of the things he’s known for, and Dicky is another one of his wonderful creations. He looks like an addict, he acts like one. The performance given by Mr. Bale is truly something wonderful to behold, and if he gets the Oscar it will be very well deserved, he’s an actor who always manages to balance to perfection the physical and psychological challenges of his characters, and Dicky is no exception. He has all the bad aspects of an addict, and every single part of Mr. Bale’s body and expressions communicate that, but we see how he once was a great athlete himself, and how he is, underneath it all, a loyal and funny man, who just made a complete mess out of his life, and isn’t doing much good to anybody.

And Mr. Russell is the perfect man to show all the aspects of this story. Much like he has done in some of his past films he brings a really huge spurt of energy to his work here, it moves really fast and deftly balances the fighting parts with the more human drama, which is where this films excels. More than a boxing film with family drama in it, it’s a family drama with boxing in it, and Micky, Dicky, their over-bearing mother and seven sisters are one loud and dysfunctional bunch.

And Melissa Leo will surely deserve attention for her work here as well. She, along with Dicky, seem to be loyally bound to their mission of making Micky succeed in any way they can, and it’s obvious that they are convinced of that themselves, but their own inner demons make them much more of an obstacle than an aid to Micky, and his own loyalty makes him unable to move on from them. Which is where Ms. Adams’ character comes in, she plays Charlene, Micky’s girlfriend who sees how much they are getting in the way of Micky’s life and career, and who lets them know exactly what she thinks. And unless Helena Bonham Carter manages to win it, these two ladies will fight it off come Oscar time, too.

The Fighter is, quite simply, a stunning film, one that manages to entertain thoroughly while still moving you. A film that boasts a quartet of seriously amazing performances, and that because of them, plus the very good directing hand of Mr. Russell, is separated from the pack as far as boxing movies go, and also becomes a movie about family and one that feels real from its beginning until its predictable, though no less satisfying, conclusion.

Grade: A


2 Responses to “The Fighter”

  1. moviegeek January 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Yes!!! We agree on something!!!
    I loved this film (I’ve already seen it twice and was moved the second time around too).
    Bale deserves an Oscar but even Melissa Leo is very very Good.

    • relativelyrealistic January 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

      Finally!! Haha
      Seen it a couple of times here as well. And I’m totally on board with you about Bale, unless Geoffrey Rush comes in strong in the precursor awards the Oscar is definitely his to lose. And yeah, Melissa Leo is a total powerhouse here and while I’m guessing she’s probably the one with the better Oscar and Golden Globe chances, my personal liking is more towards Amy Adams for this film, I’d like to see her win big for it.

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