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Fighter, The (2010)

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Score: 7/10

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

Release Date: December 10th, 2010 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David O. Russell Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams, Jack McGee

“T

he Fighter” is populated by quite a few impressive performances and an equal assemblage of dislikable characters.  A nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale (unless “The Machinist” is more memorable than Batman) stands out as the unstable, disillusioned former boxer who walks a thin line between authenticity and overacting.  Melissa Leo as the deceptively supportive mother also commands the screen while evoking contempt and disdain.  Mark Wahlberg plays a rather expected man-of-few-words protagonist, but still deserves credit for creating a character worth rooting for, while Amy Adams ably handles the tough-as-nails girlfriend.  The personas are intriguing enough that it’s a shame the film so bluntly hammers home the fact that they’re based on real people.  So it’s a true story.  Enough already.

Following in the footsteps of his beloved older brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) heads into a promising career in boxing.  His progress becomes stilted when a series of poor matchups and subsequent defeats occur from mishandled management at the hands of his mother Alice (Melissa Leo).  Run-ins with the law by his drug-addicted, loose-cannon brother brings him further anxiety, leading him to question his future in the sport.  When Dicky winds up in jail and his family and hometown are disgraced from his brother’s delusions of grandeur, Micky becomes determined to return to the ring for one final shot at attaining glory.

Even if the similarities to “Rocky” are ignored, “The Fighter” is still a fairly generic underdog sports movie, made more commonplace by selecting the sport of boxing. The few unique aspects come from the concentration on Micky’s adversities, which is also where the film splits its focus. Micky must overcome his domineering mother, aided by her posse of abetting children, and the negative influence of his brother, a man who became a legend and then a source of shame. Part of the time it feels like a film advising audiences against the use of drugs (or against living in Lowell, Massachusetts), showcasing the detrimental effects of poverty and despondency, while the other sections relate the tale of a man struggling to break free from a family that is dragging him down. Both hold up reasonably well on their own, but together they fill up screen time that detracts from the prestige of Micky’s fighting.

“The Fighter” comes packaged complete with training montages and a thrilling climax, both adorned with slick editing and rock ‘n’ roll, and a familiar series of events, starting with tragedy, moving toward redemption, and finally to victory. With the grungy setting, benighted inhabitants, and drugs, it’s a much less glamorous sports movie than what has been churning out of Hollywood recently in the form of inspirational dramas. As a prerequisite these days for green-lighting a script, Ward’s story is a biopic, and the acting is overly exaggerated but authentic, played by big name stars. Christian Bale’s performance may be over-the-top, but it demonstrates his devotion to research and method acting with a shockingly transformative physique. Unfortunately, despite Ward’s semi-interesting life and career, “The Fighter” is certainly no “Rocky” or “Raging Bull.”

– The Massie Twins

 



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