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Movie Review- The Fighter- by Emily Bishop

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I have never been able to take Mark Wahlberg seriously as an actor.

I blame The Happening (specifically this scene) for that, because it was the first movie of his I ever saw. In The Departed, he almost convinced me. Other than that, whenever I saw one of his roles, my mind always jumped back to M. Night Shyamalan’s ridiculously outlandish, critically trashed horror attempt, even though that wasn’t Marky Mark’s fault entirely. And then I saw The Fighter.

The Fighter is the story of “Irish” Micky Ward (played by Wahlberg), a boxer born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. It tracks the rise of Micky’s career, albeit in the more dramatic style we’ve come to expect from Hollywood’s biographies. Micky starts off in the shadow if his one-hit boxing wonder (excuse the pun), now crack-addict half-brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale), whose one claim to fame is that he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. Micky’s career is controlled by his family, which does him more harm than good. Although Dickie successfully teaches Micky technique (when he’s not hanging out at a crack house and missing the training sessions), Micky is stuck in bad fights. Eventually, Micky’s career goes on hiatus. He spends more time with his girlfriend Charlene (played by Amy Adams, whose acting makes up for her atrocious Boston accent), even though his slightly white trash family belittles her as a wild “MTV” girl. Eventually Micky’s career is revived when he agrees, with encouragement from Charlene, to train under the influence of smarter businessmen. The rest of the movie chronicles Micky’s rise to fame, leading up to the climactic title fight against Shea Neary, but it’s always more about Micky’s torrential family struggles, and especially his relationship with Dickie.

The Fighter is a wild ride of a movie. Micky’s crazy family may be over-dramatized, but it provides heart and humor to the movie; The Fighter, much like the classic Raging Bull, is not solely a boxing movie (although thanks to David O. Russell’s fantastic direction and camera angles, you feel like you’re in the ring with Micky when he’s boxing). Every actor in the film gives an excellent performance, including Melissa Leo as Micky’s mother and especially Christian Bale as Dickie. Bale gives one of the best performances of his career as a struggling washed-up boxer, and he deserves every nomination he receives.

Then there’s Mark Wahlberg. He finally won me over with this role. While he may not receive any best-actor nominations, he plays Micky with a slight amount of timidness that eventually translates into confidence and complete dominance in the ring. You could say that it’s also one of his greatest performances to date.

Aside from the acting, the movie itself is exhilarating, whether the setting is in the boxing ring or outside (which, with Micky’s crazy family, can be just as dangerous). It’s intense and emotional, and almost effortlessly leads you to invest yourself in all of its characters, which is essential in any biopic. It’s worthy of a best picture nomination, especially with ten openings in the category.
Any movie-lover should see The Fighter. While it might not be to the level of Raging Bull (few movies are), it’s a fascinating portrait of a boxer who simultaneously overcame and worked with his family and rose to fame. Even if you don’t follow boxing, like me, The Fighter will grip you nonetheless. I offer my final congratulations to Mark Wahlberg, who has rid my mind of him talking to a plastic tree in The Happening. Almost.

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