It’s been a long tough year at the box office, lots of mediocre movies, nothing that stands out until this weekend when we get two completely different films Tron and The Fighter. Both stand out for different reasons, I’ll tackle Tron: Legacy in a different review. When I walked into the screening of The Fighter, I walked in cold, didn’t know anything about the movie beyond what I learned talking with Anthony Thomas – one of the boxers in the movie. I was there to see True Grit, but the movie was switched to The Fighter at the last minute.
This movie had all the elements that I generally like:
- Christian Bale – check
- Amy Adams – check
- Mark Wahlberg – check
- A story about an underdog – check (As Eddie Murphy said Elvis said – “We gotta win this race!”)
Yes, there was almost no way this movie should have failed, I’m a sucker for any one of these things and this movie has all four. It is time I come out of the closet and admit I, generally, love sports movies. Yes, I know they are usually “cliche’d” but things become cliché because they work. The Fighter is based on a true story but it includes all of the generic story points – a down on his luck local Boston boxer, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) has a career that is hampered by his crack addicted brother Dicky (Christian Bale). Dicky was an up and coming Boxer who can’t get past his one moment in the limelight – knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard. Micky is caught between doing what’s right for his career and sticking by his family (family brings you down man!). Amy Adams sluts it up for her role as a bar girl who Micky falls for.
Wahlberg gives one of his best performances ever. Thomas told me that he and Wahlberg trained for over five years for this part and it shows. Wahlberg looks stacked and there’s never a moment where you don’t believe that he is a Boxer, even in the scenes where he gives up on the sport he manages to transform his body into that of a flabby construction worker. He and Amy Adams have a lot of chemistry together on the screen.
Christian Bale once again totally immerses himself into a role – to a ridiculous degree. Anyone who saw his body in Rescue Dawn, he does the same thing here. It looks like skin and bones and his face is gaunt like someone who has abused Crack. The great thing about his performance is that it is so nuanced and not showy or over the top (which is my issue with actors like Johnny Depp). Bale knows how to disappear and let a character breathe. It is one of the best performances of the year.
Director David O. Russell (Three Kings) brings this blue collar Boston town to life, it becomes it’s own unique character in the film. I would have liked more excitement with the actual boxing scenes – Raging Bull or Rocky this isn’t. but he does what a good director should – he steps away and just let the story and his actors take over. He doesn’t do anything flashy or special here. The movie is perfectly paced and never drags, or lurch from one moment to the next. The soundtrack is very understated and he doesn’t resort to giving us the Rocky Training montage. Well, he does when Dicky goes to jail, but it’s not an over the top “yeah, Rocky” moment. The Fighter isn’t a great movie like Rocky or Raging Bull, but it’s very good and certainly one of the best movies of this year. See if for no other reason than Bale’s amazing performance.
Final Grade A
EM Review by
Originally posted 12.18.2010