The basics: The Fighter is based on the true story of Dicky Eklund and Micky Ward, half-brothers and boxers from Lowell, Massachsuetts.
My thoughts: Here are a few contradictory things about me related to this movie and my enjoyment of it:
- I love sports movies.
- I dislike boxing and movies about boxing.
- I'm not a big fan of war movies.
- David O. Russell's Three Kings is one of my all-time favorite movies, and it's a war movie.
- I have a fondness for Mark Wahlberg.
- I have a fondness for Boston accents.
- I have a fondness for movies based on true stories.
- I think Christian Bale is one of the best actors of my generation and criminally under-appreciated because you don't fully understand the brilliance and dedication of his performances until you see how incredibly different they are all from each other.
Given these proclivities and contradictions, I was curious how I would feel about The Fighter. It's modern historical cinema at its best. The costumes are appropriately tacky, as are the hairstyles. With the exception of Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg, no one in this film is able to look attractive (people, it takes work for Melissa Leo and Christian Bale to look like normal people.) The audience knows it's based on a true story, so there's a reasonable assumption it will have a sports triumph. While it does, the rest of the story is what is truly compelling.
The Fighter is as much the story of a regular family in Lowell as it an exceptional one. It is not a feel good sports movie, and I love it for that reason. Yes, Micky and Dicky had triumphs in the ring, but there is so much more to their stories. Throughout the film, Dicky, now a crack addict, is being filmed for a documentary on HBO. He thinks it's about his boxing comeback (he once knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard, his boxing claim to fame), but it's really about the damaging effects of crack. It refers to a real HBO documentary, High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, which I watched after the film and was absolutely blown away. I appreciated Christian Bale's performance even more. Melissa Leo really looked like Alice.
The verdict: The Fighter is authentic, intense and powerful. It's modern cinema at its best: a well-crafted screenplay, dynamic performances and visual direction.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Length: 115 minutes
Release date: It's in these theaters now
Source: I paid to see it at the Triplex Theater in Great Barrington, Massachusetts (matinees are only $6.50!)
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