The Fighter Review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
An outstanding cast and innovative directing elevates this sports drama beyond its potential 'journeyman' status...
On first observation, The Fighter may seem like just another underdog sports drama in the mould of the Rocky series and countless other imitators. However, while certain similarities exist, the film places just as much emphasis on the dramatised battles that boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) faced from his family and small-town background, and as such makes for enjoyable viewing.
In fact, The Fighter is surprising for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is how much the 'Fighter' status of the title could just as easily be a reference to Micky's brother, Dicky (who was also a promising boxer). Furthermore, the film flips effortlessly between its working-class, family drama status to one of a much more light-hearted nature, before returning to its roots for a climatic finish.
Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund) is a revelation, playing possibly the most charismatic character in his career and underpinning the role with a real dark side. Once the town's hero - achieved from knocking Sugar Ray Leonard down - Dicky's life has taken a downward spiral, allowing his drug addiction to take over his life and get in the way of the platonic love shared between himself and his brother. Likewise, said addiction also prevents Dicky from fully helping his brother and his career, causing Micky to waste his boxing opportunities whilst stopping him from following in his brother's footsteps.
David O. Russell has typically been a director seen as more of an indie darling (his most recent release was infamously-divisive movie I Heart Huckabees), but this movie proves once again that he can appeal to modern, blockbuster audiences. In this latest release, Russell has taken a predominantly clichéd story and turned it into a unique viewing experience, giving the film an authentic blue-collar feel whilst presenting all of America's flaws in full. The particular shooting of the fight scenes - which Russell has presented in a '1990s Home Box Office' broadcast style - is an offbeat choice that both grounds the film and helps the audience to relate to The Fighter.
Last - but certainly not least - is Mark Wahlberg, who gives possibly the most nuanced performance of his career with his portrayal of both a strong-willed, ambitious fighter and a man whose own career is restricted, courtesy of his overbearing, maternal mother and his larger-than-life brother. Wahlberg is supported by yet another standout performance throughout, this time from Amy Adams. Adams plays Charlene Fleming, a young woman who forces Mickey to look at his life, eventually pushing him to act on his obvious potential by confronting and standing up to his rather domineering family. Adams' performance is a stark contrast to her recent portrayal of a clichéd Disney princess in Enchanted, and instantly makes her an actress to look out for in the future.
Melissa Leo also contributes heavily to The Fighter, playing the fourth, dramatic pillar of the film. Her portrayal of Micky's mother - a woman who wants the best for her sons but continues to overlook their troubles and grievances - is both heart-warming and painful to watch. Indeed, there are times in this movie where you both respect and pity her devotion to her sons, a true sign of an impressive performance.
Overall, The Fighter provides a crowd-pleasing and thought-provoking insight on a man chasing his dreams, while attempting to deal with both his own and family-orientated demons. It does a great job of making the characters seem real and relatable, while still giving the audience the adrenaline-infused sports movie that they desire. Having left the cinema feeling satisfied, but with a real sense of understanding towards the struggles and hardships faced by Ward, I would recommend this as a must-see for 2011.
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