Drama Movies, by Ajay Singh, 24 March 2011

Director: David O. Russell

Stars: Kenn Medeiros, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Ross Bickell, Melissa Leo, Erica McDermott, Christian Bale

Country: USA

Runtime: 115 min

Release Date:

Language: English

Awards:Academy Awards, USA, Austin Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, Golden Globes, USA

Nominations: Directors Guild of America, USA, BAFTA Awards, London Critics Circle Film Awards, Satellite Awards

Official Site: The Fighter Official Site

It is impossible to go to see The Fighter without a great deal of prejudice and scepticism. You can’t help comparing it to a host of recent very similarly themed and very successful films, such as The Wrestler, Million Dollar Baby, and Cinderella Man. All of these films featured big-name stars, garnered their share of critical acclaim, and collected a nice set of major oscar nominations each. In fact you might compare it to just about any uncompromisingly optimistic, feel good, underdog sports film from Seabiscuit, to Wimbeldon, to Ice Princess.

Naturally, one wonders why this impressive list of producers (including Wahlberg himself as well as Darren Aronofsky), would want to waste time fundraising for this film, and why director David O. Russell would bother making it when there is nothing more to be said. You also can’t help knowing exactly how the film will go. Our underprivileged hero is of course either too big, too small, too lame, too poor, too old, (or any combination of these factors), to successfully pursue his dreams.

The Fighter

The Fighter

The journey starts out with an unsuccessful, frequently mismatched competition (in this case in the form of a fight with a much larger boxer) that disappoints our hero and makes him doubt his hidden talents. He becomes depressed and disillusioned, but his loving, dysfunctional family and cheeky love interest (Amy Adams) inspire him to keep fighting. Overcoming many physical and emotional challenges, he launches into a gritty training montage, emerging stronger, more confident, and ready for his climactic showdown. The big day arrives, and though we are tricked into underestimating him, we know deep down that he will prove us all wrong. Of course he is faced with a glamorous, popular opponent and doesn’t stand a chance. The final fight inevitably starts out shaky and disappointing, usually due to a crisis of faith in out hero’s steadfast heart. But just when we are about to lose faith ourselves, the turning point comes in the shape of a lost friend, relative, or love interest (in this case, rehabilitated brother Dicky) to put him back on his feet. Returning to the final round, a new man, he perseveres spectacularly, usually crushing his opponent with some signature move or special skill. We are dully comforted and inspired to go out into the world and win, because we can.

The Fighter reproduces this pattern flawlessly, not disappointing us with any unnecessary or unexpected plot twists. Add to that the non-groundbreaking cinematography and a screenplay that doesn’t exactly effervesce wit and originality, and you are back with the same question – why? Honestly, it would be unfair not to emphasise that the film is primarily saved by its cast.

Christian Bale is surprising in his total transformation and meticulous display of method acting (although he insists he knows nothing about it). After Batman it is shocking to discover what a good actor he can actually be. He is occasionally accused of making Dicky into too much of an imitation – a caricature. That isn’t strictly true. Playing a screen persona like Katherine Hepburn, or Julia Child, it is easy to devolve into pure imitation of that individual’s on-camera style. Bale however, was faced with the much more sophisticated task of translating a non-actor to the screen in a way that makes him relatable, recognisable, and human, in a medium that could hardly be any more different from daily life.

Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams, perhaps attempting to be subtle and understated, just end up blending into the background and resting on familiar cliches. There are no hidden facets or strong emotional levels to their characters and they come off as accessories, necessary to the development of the narrative. The only other real standout performance is Melissa Leo as Alice Ward, Micky and Dicky’s fierce mother. She embodies the slum of Micky and Dicky’s childhood, making it frightening, not through melodramatic pathos, but through her energetic complacency. She is not aggressive because she is raging against her underprivileged life, but because she is pleased with it and doesn’t want anything to change for herself or her family. She is incapable of helping her sons, because she doesn’t see anything to fix, and it is that positive but twisted attitude that makes her change of perspective all the more affecting.

Just like its central character, Micky, this film has met with unexpected success through inner drive and perseverance – in the inspired performances of its cast. That does not, however, mean that we need to have a new boxing film every year.

Fighter [Blu-ray] [2010] [US Import] (Blu-ray)
Actors:
Director:
Format:
Language:
Subtitles:
Studio: Paramount Studio
Running Time: minutes

List Price:
Price: £7.70
6 offers available from £7.70
4.3 out of 5 stars (150)

The Fighter Videos

The Fighter Trailer

The Fighter Stills

Mark Wahlberg in Movie The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg in Movie The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter

Amy Adams in the movie The Fighter

Amy Adams in the movie The Fighter

The Fighter

The Fighter

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