The Fighter (2010)

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When this movie is about Dicky Eklund, the former boxing champ, current crack addict portrayed brilliantly by Christian Bale, it's enthralling. When it's about Micky Ward's boxing matches, it's significantly less so. Fortunately, though at first Micky seems to be the central character, it becomes increasingly evident that Dicky is the real focal point of this film about complex familial relationships. Amy Adams, in a stunning performance as Micky's tough, intelligent love interest, Charlene, provides the outside viewpoint as she becomes more and more aghast and defensive with the behavior and influence of Dicky and their high-haired stage mom. Her brutal interactions with Micky's swarm of sisters provide not only the funniest moments in the film, but also the most intriguing fight in a movie purportedly about just that. While watching this movie, it's hard to figure out who the titular character is. Though everybody's fighting something in this movie, I couldn't take my eyes off of Bale's gaunt, jumpy Dicky whenever he was on-screen. Adams's stellar performance aside, it's Bale's entrancing, hilarious, heartbreaking performance that truly makes this wonderful, though sometimes uneven, film well worth seeing.


A performance movie if ever there was one (okay, well, Network... and then this one, for sure), The Fighter delivers. I've developed a strange affection for sports films that commence in a finale involving an underdog that we've been cheering on, for better or for worse, the entire time. These films include Cinderella Man, Remember the Titans, Lucas, Raging Bull, The Wrestler and Bring It On. In my opinion, The Fighter is really no better or worse than any of these films, yet I've been befuddled, because I enjoy all of these movies more... and they're almost exactly the same movie, with much less impressive performances (save The Wrestler... well, save Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler). So what gives? What's my problem with The Fighter?

I mean, Mark Wahlberg turns in one of the finest performances of his career, so I can't really blame him, like I would often be compelled to. He looks and acts the part, and everything he does seems kind of effortless, which is great in a film with such a strong supporting cast. He anchors the ship, and although it's the kind of performance that often gets overlooked come awards season, I appreciate the fact that he does what he does, and he does it well. Christian Bale gives the balls-out best performance in any movie this year as Mark Wahlberg's brother, a former boxing champion who has taken it upon himself to train his baby brother to achieve the success that he once knew. Oh, and he's addicted to crack, which gives the role the kind of extra push it needs to make it an Oscar's heavy hitter. Bale was due for an Oscar anyway, so it's nice to see him get his first nomination for a film he should rightly (and probably will) win for. It's a role that only someone with the acting chops of Bale could take on properly, and it helps all the more that he's Welsh, which I didn't know until this year. Neat. Amy Adams simply isn't Amy Adams, and seeing her completely disappear into this role is worth the price of admission alone. I'm not sure another actress more generally suited for the role would have been as entertaining to watch in the film, but then, I'm not sure that someone who was really living with cerebral palsy would have been as captivating as Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot.

And trudging through reasons why I should have liked this movie more than I did: Melissa Leo, who's only on my radar because I saw her Oscar-nominated performance in Frozen River, is a revelation... but maybe only because she's only on my radar because of her Oscar-nominated performance in Frozen River. This is an entirely different kind of performance, but it's the kind of performance that makes me feel like she's a veteran actress, and not just because she looks like she's really been through some shit with the wig I suspect/hope she's wearing in this film. But to echo the sentiment of everyone else who has seen the film, if the Academy were able to do that thing where they nominate several people for one collective performance, like the Tonys did for all of the Billys in Billy Elliott or the Siamese twins in Sideshow, best supporting actress of the year easily goes to Melissa Leo's daughters. However, the Academy doesn't subscribe to such shenanigans. Too bad. And so...

I think the truth of the matter is, I'm just kind of done with these movies. It's certainly not The Fighter's fault, because I really can't find any fault with it. The directing's good, the acting's pitch perfect, and as a film that documents 5 years in one person's life, everything else looks fine by me. I just... didn't really care. I figured we'd end the film on the penultimate fight, and we did, but... eh. If I was forced to be objective and step outside of myself and review the film, I'd have to give it a full four star rating. But in movies like this, there's really nothing new to say or do that hasn't been said before and done before. You can do anything really well, but if everyone's already seen it a dozen times, it's hard to steal everyone's attention away from the ballet dancer sporting wing stubble.


I have to preface this review by asserting that I generally very much dislike heroic sports movies. I particularly dislike movies about boxing (boxing is one letter off from being boring). However, David O. Russell has created a wonderfully amusing film with both heart AND depth in The Fighter.

Similar to the skills of Joel and Ethan Coen, O. Russell delivers to us a serious tale full of comedy that stems naturally from his diverse characters in their natural environment. Even though The Fighter is not considered a comedy, it had me laughing out loud regularly (an attribute I cannot don on any other of the 2010 films). Yet it deals with serious subject matter with finesse. Every actor in this film is stellar, especially Christian Bale as protagonist Micky's (Mark Wahlberg) brother Dicky. Bale plays a crack-addicted disillusioned 40-year-old former boxer who believes in his own comeback to boxing celebrity. His performance is the best of the year. He gets completely lost in his character with manic mannerisms that are intense but cleverly restrained and watchable. He is heartbreaking and hilarious. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams both shine, and Micky and Dicky's overbearing gaggle of seven sisters barging in and out of scenes provide the grandest comedic genius element of the movie (each sister comes equipped with her own horrendous hairdo).

Of course, as this is a boxing movie, we get extensive scenes of boxing at the climax. Still, The Fighter is ultimately my favorite film of 2010.