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Movie Review -- The Fighter

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The big pull factor of this movie, where I’m from anyway, was always the Christian Bale performance. Who knew the guy has such range? (For those over 18, check out ‘American Psycho' and you’ll see the full, bloody extent of his range) In the last decade or so, Bale has snuck up on us, becoming one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. During the end credits, a clip is shown of the real Dicky Edlund, the character that Bale portrays in this film, and though the viewer only sees about 5 seconds of the real Edlund, that’s more than enough to know Bale nailed it.

Plus, he’s Batman...

Following Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards Ceremony, in which Bale was victorious as ‘Best Supporting Actor’, he looks to stand a brilliant chance of winning that long overdue gong next month when the best of the ‘biz descend on the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood for the 2011 Oscars.

The Fighter is a sports drama, revolving around Micky Ward (played with superb subtleness by Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, The Departed)) and a true story. The guy considers himself a big time boxer – a notion obsessively pumped into his head by his overbearing family – whereas in reality, he’s considered a ‘stepping stone’, which means other fighters use him as a way of bolstering their own status, going onto bigger and better things. He has trained with his formerly great boxer brother, Dicky (Bale) since he was a young boy, and has never quite reached the big time yet. Then he notices Charlene (Amy Adams, Junebug, Doubt). Immediately, he’s smitten. From there, she shows him a different path; one away from his family.

The film is called ‘The Fighter’ – why not just call it ‘The Boxer’? Good question. Like so many films equivalent to this, the film tends to enjoy showing the inner turmoil between Micky and his family. He’s one of nine children, he’s overshadowed by his eccentric, enthusiastic brother; he’s unable to say what he wants to his mother (Melissa Leo, Frozen River) because she hears only what she wants to hear, and has got it in her head that she’s got his best interests at heart. Imagine Mark Wahlberg, standing in a boxing room, both arms outstretched. On one side, you have Charlene, a bunch of suits who see his potential (and the potential of big sacks of money in their hands), and on the other, you have Dicky and the rest of his family. That’s the film in an incredibly lethargic nutshell. There are a lot of layers to the film, and I appreciated it for what it was. It’s well made, it’s not going to turn any heads; it doesn’t quite have the brilliance, tone or soul of ‘Million Dollar Baby’, but it features some standout performances from it’s leads and excruciatingly visual fight scenes which are done very well, giving the viewer a sense of authenticity.

Wahlberg and Bale work well off each other, they know exactly who they’re playing and the harsh contrasts of the two characters really compliment each other. I agree that it’s hard to care, or relate to Micky, who to some will seem like a gormless moron, going into fight after fight, whilst his family watch his health deteriorate beyond help. But Wahlberg is purposefully standing back, playing a man who has been oppressed by family demand, and now attempting to break out, do his own thing, without losing the one thing that means more to him than his fighting. It’s not an easy choice, as in one scene, Charlene tells him she’ll leave him if he continues to work with Dicky, and he knows if he cuts his brother loose, he may not get him back. The frustration he feels here engages the audience, we feel it as he feels it, and like him, we wonder why they all can’t just get along, for his sake...

And that’s where the flaws lie – it’s a predictable film, and the formulaic outcome of ‘against the odds’ has been done to death, but the film is very suave, and the actors give it that extra boost which will sell cinema tickets and make the people who say yes or no sit up and pay attention. It’s enjoyable, put together well by director David O. Russell, and will be nominated for an Oscar. So fair play to it, I say – it deserves it.

8.2/10


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