December 19, 2010

Movie Review: The Fighter (2010)

thefighter1_largeAs much as I love movies there are some movies that I just do not feel much of a reason to rush out and see. Sure, that is a rare feeling, but it is true. One of the genres that has fallen victim to this feeling is the sports drama. It is a genre that, based on a true story or not, just feels the same all the time. Yes, that is not always true and other times where the genre formulas work (I recall quite enjoying Miracle), however The Fighter is not one of those movies that immediately jumped out at me as overly interesting. Sure, the cast looked really good and it looked like it may have some solid drama, it just did not inspire my desire to rush out an see it.

So, why did I see it as soon as it came to town? The simple answer is that the buzz I was seeing on Twitter convinced me that this was definitely worth seeing. I avoided the details of why they thought it was so good, it was pretty clear that the movie was definitely one worth seeing as soon as one could. It was actually pretty overwhelming. I caved and saw it. I am glad I did.

The Fighter is not a move that is destined to be an all time classic, but there is definitely something to be said for how good a film it is. What I thought for sure was going to be another inspirational sports story of overcoming obstacles, believing in yourself, blah, blah, blah, proved to be something much more than that. Yes, their is an inspirational element, but it never feels overstated. This is a story that is much more interested in the people involved. That is a good thing.


This movie is based on the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his half-brother/trainer Dick Eklund (Christian Bale) and the rest of his dysfunctional family. Prior to watching this movie I had no idea who either of these guys were, I am not much of a boxing fan. I also think that not being familiar with the true story helped with the drama built within the film. See? Ignorance can be a good thing.

Anyway, Micky is the center of the story, although there are times where he is swallowed up by the drama all around him. He is a boxer from Lowell, MA, and his career has been on a bit of a downturn to the point he is being used as a stepping stone for better fighters. Dicky is always at his side, he being the older of the two and Micky's hero. You see, Dicky was a fighter, too, a local legend who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. His life has gone downhill as he became a crack addict and is perpetually in trouble with the law.

Dicky is being followed by a documentary film crew. He believes they are there to document his unlikely comeback when they are actually documenting the effects of crack addiction. While this is going on, he and their mother (Melissa Leo) are trying to get Micky back on track. The problem is that everything seems to be done for the glory of mom who loves to lay out guilt trips en route to getting her way. Then there is Charlene (Amy Adams), the street smart bartender who strikes up a relationship with Micky. While she has Micky's best interest at heart, she is just another voice to add to the din of Micky's life.


Watching this movie is rather fascinating. It is not so much about the boxing, per se, as it is about these strong personalities. Dicky's motormouth crackhead, the controlling the mother, the logic of Charlene, and Micky stuck in the middle, not wanting to cross the family but still wanting to have a career. At the center of the familial noise is the relationship between Micky and Dicky. Watching them together is something to behold.

This is not a about the boxing but about the love and the attempts to bring everything into some sort of balance. The acting carries the film to its heights. Christian Bale turns in another incredible performance. Melissa Leo is captivating as the mother, and Amy Adams is fantastic as the tough Charlene. However, it is Mark Wahlberg that delivers more than I was expecting. Sure, Micky may be overwhelmed but watching him bob around trying to find a balance is pretty slick. Understated, sure, but very effective.

Yes, so I found this movie to be much better than I initially expected. The acting was superb, pacing strong, and the boxing was done pretty well. The Fighter sneaks up on you with its excellence. It has moments of surprising comedy (Micky's seven sisters are a good source), the tragedy of crack addiction, the idea of overcoming odds, it all works very well and this is a movie that is worth the time.

Highly Recommended.

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