Not Just Another Boxing Film
How is it possible to love boxing films yet not the sport itself? That’s a question I always ask myself after seeing movies like The Fighter. Every previous boxing film -- Rocky, Raging Bull, The Boxer, Cinderella Man, etc. – has hit home for me in terms of drama and suspense, but this latest offering surprised me with its fascinating depiction of family relations and the way loved ones can hurt the people they care about the most. Stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo deliver knock-out performances here, as does everyone else in this outstanding movie.
Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, the shy younger brother of flamboyant boxing legend Dicky Eklund (Bale), who’s now hooked on crack and serving as Micky’s irresponsible trainer. Their extremely forceful mother (Leo) acts as Micky’s manager. After Micky’s new no-nonsense girlfriend (Adams) discovers that his brother and mother are arranging impossible fights for him and letting him get beaten up just to earn money, she encourages Micky to distance himself from them. When a new manager and trainer come on board, the rift in the family widens.
Clearly, in terms of a body of film work, the year 2010 belongs to Wahlberg. His understated, sensitive and physically demanding acting in The Fighter is the third victory for him. With each of his outings this year, he’s brought to life an unforgettable screen character. In Date Night, we believed Wahlberg as shirtless eye-candy for Tina Fey. Next, while watching The Other Guys we laughed (until it hurt!) at his wonderful parody of the angry sergeant he played in The Departed. The Fighter gives Wahlberg a perfect acting trifecta. He comes across as a real person, one who’s at a crossroads and must decide what’s the right thing to do. At every step of the way, he makes us want things to turn out well for him.
The practically unrecognizable Bale (Batman Begins) also shines with his brilliant portrayal of a troubled man basking in past glory (“I knocked out Sugar Ray!”). Dicky may be hard to like, but we can’t help seeing past all his flaws and hoping he will change his ways. Adams (Enchanted) excels as the tough, sexy barmaid who loves Micky, even if it means actually fighting for him. Leo (Frozen River) convinces us that she’s an iron-fisted matriarch who rules a very big roost. (Her many daughters add a welcome touch of humor in a number of scenes.) Finally, Jack McGee (The International) deserves recognition for his sympathetic interpretation of Micky’s father. This is ensemble acting at its finest.
Based on a true story and directed skillfully by David O. Russell (Flirting with Disaster) from an insightful screenplay by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver (8 Mile) and Paul Tamsey (Air Bud), The Fighter earns my vote as one of the best films of 2010.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.)
For more information about The Fighter, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.