I love my local theater, as Tuesdays are $6 movie day. I’m not always free enough on Tuesdays, and there is not always a good enough movie to warrant it. That being said, last week I was able to go and see The Fighter.
Generally, I am one of the last to go and see a sports movie—especially in the theater. The last was probably The Blind Side for me, but I cannot think of any before that. At least that one paid off. I do love the first two Rocky films, for some odd reason, though I cannot stand boxing by itself. I can’t figure it out, but, probably for the same reason, I was absolutely looking forward to The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell. And it was absolutely worth it.
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams lead in the true story of Micky Ward and his brother Dickey Eklund. Dickey (Bale) is a former boxer, “The Pride of Lowell” (Massachusetts) whose sole claim to fame was having knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. Now addicted to crack, he is being followed around by a camera crew from HBO, ostensibly to film his comeback, while it’s really to explore the effects of crack addiction. There is a long walk through Lowell with his brother Micky (Wahlberg) as they talk about how soon Dickey will be back in the spotlight. At the same time, Micky is training for a big fight, and his brother is supposed to train him, with his mother as his manager. We discover that Micky is known as a stepping stone, without any real wins under his belt, but with a great deal of potential squashed due to mismanagement. When he meets Charlene, a bartender, he quickly falls for her, and she pushes him to meet his potential despite his family dragging him down.
Mark Wahlberg has become a pretty good actor. He’s stoic and pensive, but bringing out the emotion when he needs to, really playing out the conflict he feels. He is torn between his devotion to his family and the fact that they have, unwittingly, done their best to hamper his career. His mother does not know the ropes of management as much as she thinks, and Dickey’s crack addiction continually derails Micky’s training, especially after an altercation with the law. Even so, he does not simply drive them away–Dicky taught him everything he knows, and his mother has spent her life trying to help him–but he establishes healthy boundaries, not letting them drag him down.
I’ve said this for awhile, but Christian Bale has a super power. It is the ability to control his own weight. From The Mechanic to his Batman films to this, he is all over the scale. It’s kind of scary. But you know what? Well done. Whatever you want to say about Bale as an off-stage personality, he’s a pretty great actor. He has the look of the crack addict down pat, the cadence of the Boston accent, and the boxing technique worked out well.
Amy Adams moves out of her comfort zone for this role. She usually plays a quiet, sweeter role, but in this she’s scrappy and gutsy. She has to be, when pitted against Micky’s large, hostile family—with whom she throws down at one point and holds her own. I’ve always liked her a lot, and I think she’s going to continue to shine.
Oddly, despite the intensely dysfunctional nature of Micky’s family, eventually they come through for him. They stand by him in a great moment, at least slightly redeemed. This was a great film, and if I’m saying that about a sports related movie, that’s saying something. I’m expecting to see some Oscar nominations for the Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams.
4.5 out of 5 stars