For being a movie ostensibly about boxing, The Fighter is a sneaky, almost gentle movie that, by the time it finishes, you realize is hiding a knockout punch.
Here’s a preview:
Released December 17, 2010
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Amy Adams, Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Mickey O’Keefe, and Jack McGee
* * * * *
Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is a boxer who’s always had potential, but never seems to have found it. His older half-brother, Dicky (Bale) was a successful fighter who knocked Sugar Ray Leonard down once, but whose life has since become totally derailed by drugs and alcohol. The title of The Fighter probably refers to Ward, but could just as well refer to his brother, his girlfriend Charlene (Adams), or even his mother (Leo). They’re all mighty strong personalities and they’re all fighting for something. What makes this movie so powerful is that each one fights for what they believe in, what they value, most– even when that value is in contradiction to what others around them want.
So Micky’s being trained by Dicky, who was himself trained by Mickey O’Keefe. Micky flubs the fight he promises everyone he’s going to win. He gets the tar beaten out of him. So he quits the boxing business. His brother Dicky seems intent on quitting life and gets in serious trouble with the law. Micky has his hand broken trying to help Dicky.
This is when the brothers have a falling out that seems insurmountable. Charlene is determined to keep the toxic Dicky from her man’s life and to try to help Micky have a real life. But Micky’s need to compete and battle is rekindled and he finds his heart. He starts training in earnest and the family dynamics threaten to derail his burgeoning success. These are real people and they have real conflicts, but they love each other so much that they have to find a way to get out of each other’s way.
All of this leads to a powerful and emotional climax, both in and out of the ring. It’s not so much a movie about boxing but about a family with boxing, and other violence, in their blood.
Beyond some possible overacting by Christian Bale, this is as close to a perfect film as you will see in years. The writing is totally unassuming, telling a seemingly simple story of two brothers, both with broken dreams. The acting is also unassuming. The performances from each of the main four actors are so note-perfect, so real, so completely engaging, that the movie is captivating from the start.
You wonder where the story will go. You wonder whether there will be an emotional climax. But you forget that as you are carried into the lives and world of these people.
Dicky’s absolute narcissism and selfishness, his need to constantly have attention on himself and relive his glory, is infuriating. Micky is too easy-going, too forgiving of his brother. Their mother is too heavy-handed, too indulging to Dicky. Charlene is kind and sweet, but also seems very ambitious and possessive.
These are real people. They’re good, but very flawed. It’s a totally captivating film because it doesn’t just focus on some outstanding boxing matches, but it really spends time focusing on the conflicts inside and among the family members that duke it out through this story.
The way this movie ties the story up, with the emotional impact that it has, will make you feel like you’ve been given several body blows followed by an uppercut. What a knockout of a film.
Content warnings: some sensuality, plenty of profanity, drug and alcohol use, boxing and other fisticuffs
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
This is my number 1 movie from 2010. Rotten Tomatoes pretty much agrees with me. Don’t forget to share this review; if you don’t you will be cursed by a wandering gypsy woman.