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Dinah’s Rating: 9.5/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 9.0/10
(3 reviews total)
David O. Russell has earned himself a right to an Academy Award nomination for The Fighter. The sports drama is anchored on an all star cast and wonderful writing and character interplay. Although the movie falters in its portrayal of boxing matches, this unexpected take on the sub-genre is ultimately satisfying and well-made.
“Irish” Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a down-on-his-luck fighter set apart from his family but still bound by tradition to his brother and mother. His older brother Dicky (Christian Bale) is a local legend who glories at having knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard when he was a young fighter. His current state is mamma’s boy and crack addict. His mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), manages Mickey’s career while Dicky trains him. His seven sisters corral around him taking orders from Alice like a goon squad. In this story, family means everything and no outsider can be trusted.
Christian Bale loses himself in Dicky Ecklund. He deserves the award recognition he received this week. He is slender, fidgety, and burdened with a fragile ego. He is ever the scoundrel, never winning approval from the audience but instead immersing himself in a role as the antagonist. Melissa Leo is also notable. She is high-class trash dolled up in too much makeup and overly sprayed hair. She loves her boys, but her greed and denial lay just beneath the surface. She is a villainess, but she plays her part with subtlety that makes Mickey’s weakness with her believable.
Amy Adams is almost unrecognizable as Charlene. It isn’t her physical appearance but the attitude. Adams puts just the right amount of swagger on Charlene to make her both likeable and humorous. Charlene is feisty, which isn’t Adams usual fit. Prim, proper, plucky and popularly seen as a princess in Enchanted, Adams shows that Junebug talent by stealing scenes from Bale and Leo. The interplay between Charlene and the Mickey’s sisters provide some of the funniest scenes in the film.
A key strategy that worked is that the marketing didn’t give away the whole story. This is not just another Rocky wannabe. It is a story about a man growing up and apart from his family. He is re-establishing boundaries between blood and business. Marketing hides the roles characters Charlene and Alice will play in the film, along with the depth of Dicky’s troubles. This is a major win for the audience because it results in a bevy of pleasant surprises.
The problems lie in the editing of the fights. There is no shaky camera nonsense here; in fact, there are no camera tricks at all. The director decided to keep clean open shots of the action, and much of that sans mood music. I disagree with the choice; the fight scenes fell flat. “Eye of the Tiger” wasn’t mere melodrama; it added hype and mounting excitement for the inevitable conclusion. Instead there is cheesy voiceover of an uninspired knuckle-up speech.
Though the fight everyone expects turns out to be a bit too quick and cliché, the performances and relatable dysfunctional family storyline more than makes up for it. Bale, Leo, and Adams own the screen with a mixture of melancholy and humor and Wahlberg continues to show maturity as an actor. The Fighter drives hard from its opening scene, sputtering only in terms of actual fight scenes.
Directed by David O. Russell
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo
Other Player Affinity Reviews
Steven thought: “David O. Russell brings a needed dose of realism to the boxing genre, downplaying the underdog nature of Micky’s true story and focusing on the relationships that push him through and hold him back all throughout his journey toward the welterweight title. Bale’s performance is transformative as the off-kilter, fun-loving yet troublesome Dickie whose reformation make the film as much about him as Micky. A clip of the actual Dickie in the credits gives Bale a huge boost Oscar-wise as he’s dead-on. Leo impressively embodies every controlling mother; she keeps Alice from being an total monster, providing a more complete picture of a mother whose blurred the line between business and family. Adams excels too as more than “the girlfriend” role. All together, they give The Fighter the best ensemble cast of 2010. And like all great boxing films, all these tensions blow in and out make their way symbolically into the boxing ring for that final fight. The emotional moments of The Fighter do lack a real knockout and many intimate moments are tempered with humor in awkward but not scene-ruining ways, but rather than be a heavyweight drama that rides the underdog story for two hours, The Fighter opts to be something a bit more natural by fixing on the right things: the people and the personal relationships that hurt or harm us, are all essential to our success.” Rating: 8.5/10
Simon’s Rating: 9/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 9.0/10