The Fighter: Movie Review
Cast: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Director: David O Russell
Boxing films are all the same, right?
An underdog loses a series of fights in a desperate attempt to make a
comeback and suddenly comes good when it really matters.
The Fighter is different.
And infinitely better than the usual fare.
Based on a true story, Mark Wahlberg stars as Micky Ward, a boxer who's
living in the shadow of his older brother Dicky Eklund (a wonderfully wiry and
sparky, Golden Globe award winning Christian Bale.) Eklund is the pride of
Lowell, Massachusetts; a boxer who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, he's the
celeb of the working class town.
However, Eklund is racked with addiction to crack cocaine and is dragging the
family down - as well as his brother's hopes of staging some kind of fighting
revival. Plus along with the fearsome matriarch of the nine strong family, Alice
(a ferocious Golden Globe award winning Melissa Leo) in charge of their careers,
Micky is going nowhere fast.
So when Micky meets Amy Adams' Charlene, a local bartender college drop out,
a tender romance develops and Micky begins to start to believe in himself and
his ability again.
But Charlene realizes the only way to boost Micky's career is to remove the
cancer of Alice and Dicky - and so the battle lines are set and the
Let's get the boxing clichés out of the way now - this is a knock out of a
film which pulls no punches.
But it's the ensemble cast which gives this true story a human feel and raise
it well above the mire of a clichéd boxing film.
Christian Bale is astoundingly good as Eklund, a sinewy frame supporting a
"can't take your eyes off him" performance. There's energy and world class
acting on show here as the small town hero who was on the cusp of having it all
but blows it for the cycle of addiction.
Yet, while Bale's great, thanks to the sensible and restrained direction of
David O Russell, it doesn't detract from the rest of the cast - specifically
Mark Wahlberg, whose subtly underplayed performance is the perfect antithesis to
Bale's sparky energy. He's an assured presence here and conveys the torment of
realizing the family's holding him back and the pain of having to try and make
that clean break.
Amy Adams is also excellent as Charlene and Melissa Leo needs special mention
as the most frightening mom in charge since the mom at the head of the clan in
Animal Kingdom last year.
If you're expecting a series of montages of fights as well when we see Micky
start to box again, that's another cliché dispensed with by Russell; at most
each fight on the way to the title racks up about two seconds. It's a great move
which means the drama's solely focused on life outside the ring (which is where
the emotional core of this film lies) and because of it, when the title bout
comes round and that plays out in its entirety rather than a brief snippet of
narrative, there's more invested in you wanting to see Micky win.
With humour, raw honesty and brilliant casting, this tale of redemption and
addiction will suck you in right from the very beginning.
The Fighter is guaranteed to leave your pulse racing and your heart beating
from beginning to end - as it lines up with The King's Speech for potential
Oscar glory, it looks as if 2011's finally off to a superb cinematic start.
Simply a knock out and unmissable.