Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fighter’s Family Pull No Punches

The Fighter

Sometimes our greatest enemies are the ones who we are linked to from birth. In the case of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), it is his family that causes a great deal of his strife in his life.

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.


  1. great film and performances, and yes more about the family. i've been trying to convince others to go see it who are wary that it's merely a "boxing picture."

  2. Great review! Any chance I could put you down to review The Fighter for LAMB devours the Oscars? I think you'd have to add maybe a sentence of two about its Oscar prospects, otherwise it's great! Let me know - either reply here or send me an e-mail insightintoentertainment at

  3. I didn't know what to expect with this movie because it's a movie that could have been so deja-vu but I was agreeably surprised by it. Indeed, it's much more about family than it is about boxing. Good review CS!

  4. Excellent although I don't think this is a great film. It was a flawed in some respects but I enjoyed it. I had a few issues with some of the storylines and had no idea about when some of the fights took place and such.

    My other issue was with Melissa Leo's character. I thought she did a decent job but her character was too much of a caricature for me to get into. Plus, I couldn't stand the sisters which really grated me throughout the first act.

    I still like Bale, Adams, and Wahlberg. I just had higher expectations from someone like David O. Russell.

  5. I sort of agree with thevoid99 about Leo who I like and dislike - she sort of flipflops for me. You're right it's more about family than boxing, although sometimes it seems Russell WANTS it to be about the boxing more than the family. It's not a perfect one, but it's a good one

  6. @MrJeffrey – My wife refused to watch it because she does not like boxing at all. I guess there are some people whose mind you just cannot change.

    @Jess – As I mentioned in my email, I will update the review on the weekend to include my thoughts on the film’s Oscar potential.

    @Castor – The boxing genre has been done to death that it is really tough find new angles to touch on. I think Russell was wise to put the family at the forefront.

    @thevoid99 – I was not sure what to expect from Russell to be honest. A would have never pictured him doing a boxing movie. I know Three Kings was an action movie of sorts, but I still see Russell as the Spanking the Monkey and Flirting With Disaster type of guy. Though I agree that the timeline with the fights was a little confusing.

    As for Leo, I thought that her and the seven daughters did a good job in selling that “trailer trash” in Boston image that has become in vogue in film (will be writing a piece on this soon).

    @Andrew – The only time I really saw Leo flip-flop was at the very end. I thought the issue between her and Wahlberg wrapped up a bit too quick and neat.

    In regards to the boxing, I would have preferred it if they had cut down the final fight as it was not that interesting. Yet I understand that it is needed as it was a significant part of his story.

  7. It is one of the more entertaining boxing films of the past couple of years, and Bale's performance is surely a shoe-in for an Oscar win. Good review!

  8. @CMrok93 – Yep. I agree that Bale is pretty much a lock for best supporting actor. The Oscars love characters that hit rock bottom.


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