The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell, is a film depicting the true story of “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a boxer who lives in the shadow of his older half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) and under the watchful eye of his mother and manager Alice Ward (Melissa Leo). His brother Dicky was once an aspiring boxer and has slipped into drug addiction as he still lives in the memory of his “knockdown” of the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson. Under the tutelage of Dicky and the management of his mother, Micky loses fight after fight whilst becoming embroiled in family politics he simply can’t get out of. That is until he meets barmaid Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams) who tries to get Micky sorted out and thinking for himself and to reach the level he’s worked so long to reach.
I will say this, The Fighter is a superb film. It’s a stunning character study into the life of Micky Ward and those close to him. The film dances cleverly between the dark humour in the story and the passionate story of the people inside it. The stand out performance of the film is as many people will undeniably agree is Christian Bale who plays the role of the trouble making drug addict of an older brother. Bale has in the past had a history of extreme physical changes to suit the various roles he’s had over the last few years with a notable mention to The Machinist. His physical appearance has again taken a dramatic change from the muscularly toned Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight to the bony frame of Dicky Eklund in The Fighter. However it’s not just the change at face value that’s frankly astonishing but also how every little thing from his mannerisms to his accent and his facial expressions echo the real Dicky. Every ounce of charisma that the real Dicky Eklund has, comes across in Bale’s performance and then some. It’s the infectious personality that hits you right from the opening scene and doesn’t let up till the ending credits. It’s a remarkable performance which is both moving and captivating and one that I feel must certainly get recognition at the next awards season. In fact the casting all round was pretty much spot on with Melissa Leo bringing an astounding performance as the control freak mother and to that I sincerely hope she takes best supporting actress for her part. All of Micky’s many sisters were done with aplomb and all as trashy and unlikable as the next which in this case, was perfect.
One of the highlights of the film for me was the HBO styled filming of the ring fights. The camera was shot on video in much the same way the actual fight would’ve been shot and with the same voice-over boxing commentary laid on top. It gave the boxing a very authentic feel and was a change from the over stylised scenes we seen in other modern day Hollywood boxing fights. Of course the sound of the punches was amped up and some of the hits looked blatantly choreographed but overall I think they did a very good job showing the fight sequences. After watching the film the first thing I did was to go on YouTube and to look up all of the fights that had been in The Fighter and I’m sure so did many other people. In the world of Boxing everyone knows Micky Ward, but to people who aren’t as invested in the sport, it’s a great movie that provides a telling insight into one of it’s great boxers.
The politics and the complex struggles within this insane family are laid bare for all to see and it’s refreshing to see absolutely flawed characters that feel real and make you the audience feel genuinely connected. The Fighter doesn’t ask for your sympathy or your warm regards but instead puts all of it’s energy into the characters and lets them tell the story as it is to you. You never feel like you’re being guided by the hand blindingly like a Disney movie but instead it becomes a journey of discovering the real family at its heart through great story telling and even better acting. It’s rare that a boxing movie doesn’t go into the clichéd dramatics that it so often gets tied down to and instead concentrates on telling an amazing story. The story nurtures you into an emotional attachment to the characters making it hard not to smile at points and take sides.
The Fighter is a movie that goes above and beyond what a boxing film is. Despite it’s blunt title, it’s a fight against the challenges that face Micky Ward both in and out of the ring. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the sport or have no interest in boxing, you should definitely see the film. It’s certainly one of the best films of the year and without a doubt a master class in great acting.
TUS Rating: 5 of 5