¨I´m the one who`s fighting. Not you, not you, and not you.¨
It`s a good thing Mark Wahlberg`s character reminds us about this near the end of the film because you could think that he wasn`t the central theme of David O. Russell`s movie due to the fact that the rest of the performances from the ensemble cast outshine him. Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams give such great performances that Wahlberg`s character gets kind of lost in the midst of the story, but I don`t think that`s a negative critique for the film because it kind of summarizes the way his character has felt his entire life. Sidelined by his mother and seven sisters who have always shown preference toward his older half-brother (played by Christian Bale), who is sort of the local hero of a small town in Massachusetts called Lowell. Russell, who hadn`t directed a film in 6 years (I Heart Huckabees), does a great job with the direction of this film thanks to a powerful script written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson. It is based on a true story, but of course has probably been modified by Hollywood for more dramatic effects. It follows the boxing career of ¨Irish¨ Micky Ward and his rise to the top against all odds. The plot may sound familiar and sort of follows the same premise every other sport movie does, however the performance from the ensemble cast makes this movie stand out from the rest. It also has a powerful screenplay and focuses on Ward`s family as much as it does with his boxing career so it makes for a good balanced dramatic sports film.
The movie takes place during the 90`s in Lowell, Massachusetts and opens with an HBO interview of Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale), a former boxer known as ¨the pride of Lowell¨ who once knocked down the great Sugar Ray Leonard. He lost the fight, but survived all ten rounds in the ring with him. He is a retired boxer who is now training his younger half brother, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) along with their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), who is his manager. Dicky`s convinced that HBO is making a documentary about his comeback, but the truth of the matter is that it’s about crack addiction and how it can destroy people´s lives. Dicky is in his 40`s and consumed by his drug addiction. He spends most of his days locked up in a friend`s house getting high or in prison, although he still doesn`t seem to acknowledge the fact that it`s slowly ruining his life. His entire family knows about his addiction, but can`t seem to help him with it. Just like the rest of the people in Lowell, Micky admires his brother and listens to everything he has to say about boxing. Micky sometimes waits hours in the gym for his brother to show up and help him train, but his addiction and time in prison is hurting Micky`s career as well. His mother doesn`t help him very much as his manager either as she sometime pins him up in fights against boxers who are twenty pounds heavier than him. Micky is about to give up on his career until he meets Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams), a sexy bartender who teaches him to stand up against his family and not give up on his dream. When Dicky is sentenced to 15 years in prison it is time for Micky to find a new trainer and fulfill his dream.
Russell`s picture received 7 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. It had been a long time since his latest film (six years) and the wait was worth the while. His most acclaimed film up to this point had been Three Kings (in which he also worked with Wahlberg), but I have a feeling most people will remember him for this movie now on. The Fighter is a good film. It is more than just another boxing movie; it`s a film about family and rising to the challenge. The film is so well balanced mixing boxing and family drama that I don`t know if the title is referring to Wahlberg`s character as a boxer, or Bale`s character as a drug addict. Both of them have to fight extremely difficult odds in order to survive (Micky as a boxer and Dicky as a free junkie). The family also has to go through difficult times in order to survive, but somehow they manage to stick together despite all the differences. Christian Bale is truly the star of this film. He is so energetic and loud, that one wouldn`t recognize this guy as being Batman or Sean Connor from the Terminator. The physical and emotional transformation he goes through in this film is just impressive. Melisa Leo (Frozen River) is also excellent in her role as Alice, as well as Amy Adams who also plays a different role in this film from what she has us used too. All three actors have been nominated for the Oscars, and Bale is a favorite to win. Wahlberg, as I said, sort of gets sidelined by the rest of the cast, but his performance is strong and powerful nonetheless. The Fighter isn`t among my top ten films of the year, but it still is a very well balanced sports drama which I strongly recommend.