Based on a true story, The Fighter looks at Micky Ward’s turbulent journey towards becoming a boxing champion. Micky is managed by his overbearing mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), and trained by his brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale). The latter is a former boxer whose biggest claim to fame is knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard many years earlier. Much to Micky’s dismay, Dickie, still hanging onto his past glory, becomes entangled in the world of drugs. After losing a series of boxing matches to opponents that he had no business fighting in the first place, Micky starts to question whether or not Alice and Dickie are really working in his best interest. When Micky starts dating Charlene (Amy Adams), he begins to seriously think about getting his life back on track. Yet in order for Micky to move forward with his boxing career he will have to sever ties with his family, a task easier said than done.
After taking a minor misstep with his last feature length film, I Heart Huckabees, director David O. Russell is back in top form with The Fighter. Although the film is set in the world of boxing, boxing is actually secondary. The Fighter is more of a character study than it is a boxing movie. All of the members of Mickey’s large family constantly talk about the obligations to family, but Micky seems to be the only one to actually adhere to “family” logic. The rest of the clan seems more than happy to ride Micky’s coattails. Alice and Dickie, in particular, are especially blinded by the money and the celebrity status they believe they have. This is prominent in the way both of them prance around for the HBO cameras. One of the best scenes in the film arrives when Dickie is watching the HBO documentary, which he believes is about his boxing career, and realizes that the show is actually about his drug addiction. The range of emotions which he goes through in the short span of time is fascinating to watch.
Christian Bale is mesmerizing as Dickie, he really does deserve many of the supporting actor awards he has be receiving this award season. Within the first five minutes of watching The Fighter you completely forget you are watching an actor. A similar point can be made for both Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, as they each completely immerse themselves into their roles. While each are strong on their own, their scenes together are filled with so much tension that it is only a matter of time before the rage starts to boil over. While Wahlberg may not bring the same impact as his fellow cast members, he still gives a rather good performance. While Wahlberg is talented, a lot of his best work in this film is due to Russell’s direction. Similar to other films they have worked together on, Russell finds a way to perfectly play up Wahlberg’s strengths as an actor. Russell is able to bring out a vulnerability in Wahlberg that is not often seen on screen.
If you go into The Fighter looking for a straight movie about boxing you might be a bit disappointed as the boxing scenes are nothing out of the ordinary. Films like Raging Bull, Rocky, The Hurricane and even Girlfight had more exciting in the ring scenes.Yet, if you are looking for a film that delivers both a good story and great performances, then The Fighter is definitely a film worth seeing.