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The Fighter
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Jack McGee, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo
Director: David O. Russell
Scriptwriters: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
Composer: Michael Brook
Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Rating: R
Running Length: 116 minutes

The Fighter is based on the true story of boxer Micky Ward, a welter-weight who won the championship when he was at an age of boxing retirement. Not only are we introduced to Micky’s life, but to that of his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (an over-the-top Christian Bale) who was also a winning fighter, but now a druggie and in prison. The third person in this family trio is Mom (Melissa Leo who steals her scenes). Just when you thought Barbara Hershey in Black Swan had “backstage Mom” all sewed up. Along comes Leo giving a new twist to the word---she clearly prefers Dicky over Micky. Not only that, but Mom’s posse (her many daughters who are like the minions in “Despicable Me”) seem to live in her house and follow her everywhere. This family rewrites history.

It is Lowell, Mass. As the story goes, Dicky is in prison for drugs and unknown to many, gets himself clean, though his brain may be rattled. Micky wants one more try at a good fight, having had his head knocked about when Mom schedules him with a fighter about twice his size. What is needed here is attitude adjustment. Mom to back off and listen instead of shouting. Micky to have the backbone to tell Mom off and get a different trainer, and Dicky to stay clean and stay away from his brother. The word “toxic family” comes to mind.  As you can suspect all of the above eventually happen and Micky gets that big fight he so craves, using his own creative, strategy.  Micky’s non-nonsense girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams) has a lot to do with it.

The boxing and training scenes are well-staged and both Bale and Wahlberg show off their physiques. This is a rough ‘n tumble Irish neighborhood where everyone hangs together. Characters make this film work and you see them in the sisters, neighbors, and people who hang out at the gym. However, instead of Micky, it is Mom’s film and  Wahlberg is so laid-back you wish he, like the character, Micky, would have used more force in his performance. When he is with Bale or Leo, he pales in comparison.

The Fighter is yet another rise-to-the-top film, but better made than some. The ambience of a close-knit neighborhood is apparent and the strategy of a boxer is carefully studied. It is not a gentle sport.

Copyright 2010 Marie Asner




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