Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Boxing
Opens locally Friday, December 17th, 2010 (Rated R)
Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams
Directed by David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings)
"The Fighter" has the plot and configuration of a standard "boxing movie," but an incredible cast and a strong focus on character development helps it to transcend the genre. It was just nominated for 6 Golden Globes, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Wahlberg), Best Supporting Actor (Bale), and 2 nods for Best Supporting Actress (Leo and Adams). Christian Bale and Amy Adams also were both awarded wins from the Detroit Film Critics Societyfor their roles here.
The Plot. It is based on the true story of boxer Mickey Ward (Wahlberg), who's trainer is older half-brother and former boxer Dicky (Bale). Dicky once knocked down Sugar Ray in the ring, his only claim to fame in an otherwise mediocre career. Since that time, he has entered into a path of drugs and self-destruction. Mickey is also managed by his tough mother (Leo), who lives a life of poverty, or could be described more easily as "white trash." Mickey has some promise as a fighter, but his biggest challenge is overcoming his unreliable brother and mother, who don't seem to have his best intentions at hand. When he meets a waitress (Adams) at a local bar and they fall for each other, she forces him to open his eyes and try to follow his dreams. With his family in control of his career, he can only go so far...Mickey has to take control of his own life if he is ever to become a contender.
Technical Knock-Out. The film itself does follow some of the cliched boxing formulas...the down and out boxer who really could be a champ, the idea of will power and determination as a virtue. We even get the training montages and the climactic fight at the end of the film. But it works beautifully because for a large portion of the film, we are outside of the ring. Each actor in the film gives an award-worthy performance, confirmed by their recent Globe nominations. But it is Christian Bale's Dicky who steals every scene. He must have lost a lot of weight for the role, as he looks even thinner and frailer than he did in his American Psycho days. He creates a character that is both memorable and layered, and even though we see his flaws, we root for him nearly as much as we do his brother, Mickey.
Wahlberg, who showed great range this year between The Fighter and his comedic scene-stealing role in "The Other Guys", holds the film together and is perfectly cast as the kid brother to Bale's Dicky. Melissa Leo, who scored an Oscar nomination in 2008's "Frozen River", is perfectly calice as Mickey's mother and manager. She has some terrific scenes with her cackle of daughters who all seem to live in the same house, and all share a jealousy of Mickey's new girlfriend. That girlfriend's performance, played by the normally sweet and innocent Amy Adams, will blow the doors open on her career. It's the kind of role that has Oscar written all over it, a very talented actress playing against type, in a role that gains much sympathy throughout.
Unanimous Decision. If you've noticed that I've focused more on the performances and less on the film itself, it's no mistake. By far one of the best ensemble casts of any movie this year, The Fighter is just one of those "good movies" that you'll want your friends to see after you've seen it. Boxing fans will love the inclusion of famous boxing trainer Mickey O'Keefe playing himself, and even the casual male will love the boxing backdrop and storyline. Woman will be happy that the movie isn't "Rocky", and most of the drama takes place outside of the ring.
The Fighter is a movie that packs a punch, despite being limited to the 4-corner conventions of a ring that is boxing cliche. Bale, Adams, Leo, and Wahlberg give heavyweight performances, all of which put The Fighter in a weight-class all its own.
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