Thursday, January 13, 2011

movie review: The Fighter

The FighterThe backstory: The Fighter is nominated for six Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture, Drama; Best Director, David O. Russell; Best Actor, Drama, Mark Wahlberg; Best Supporting Actor, Christian Bale; Best Supporting Actress, Melissa Leo; Best Supporting Actress, Amy Adams) and four Screen Actors Guild Awards (Best Performance by a cast;  Best Supporting Actor, Christian Bale; Best Supporting Actress, Melissa Leo; Best Supporting Actress, Amy Adams).

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:
  1. I love sports movies. 
  2. I dislike boxing and movies about boxing.
  3. I'm not a big fan of war movies.
  4. David O. Russell's Three Kings is one of my all-time favorite movies, and it's a war movie.
  5. I have a fondness for Mark Wahlberg.
  6. I have a fondness for Boston accents.
  7. I have a fondness for movies based on true stories.
  8. 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!)

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!


  1. I'm a fan of Wahlberg, too...but I always have to call him Marky Mark.

    I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've heard nothing but fabulous things about it.

  2. I love all sorts of movies, especially movies that are based on true stories.

    Movies Based on True Stories Database

  3. I have been seeing ads for this movie all over the place, and I too, love Mark Whalberg and Christian Bale, so I definitely want to see this one. It sounds like it's an excellent flick. Thanks for the great review!


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