Just when you think you have you have got your Oscar predictions straight, then comes along ‘The Fighter’ to make you rip up that list….
#32 / 365 – ‘The Fighter’ – 115 mins
Cinema Challenge #14 / 115
The true tale of the early years of legendary fighter Irish Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), who triumphed over a complex family situation, including a crack-addict half-brother/trainer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), to become a welterweight boxing champ in the 1980s.
The underdog sports movie is a proven, warn and successful genre; ‘Rocky’, ‘Raging Bull’, ‘Seabiscuit’ (about a horse!) which you can only play one way and the template is no different here, but it’s the hand-held and loose camera style director David O. Russell (‘Three Kings’) employs that make this such an effective and vibrant watch, all shot on the gritty streets of Boston, Massachusetts where its apparent film-makers are queuing up to make every movie, check ‘The Town’, ‘Gone Baby Gone’. In the middle of this are the fight sequences themselves which are all believably choreographed and wonderfully shot with TV cameras to give that style of authenticity.
Russell gets terrific, undeniably Oscar worthy performances from his cast, Bale is nothing short of mesmerizing in every scene the camera lingers on him and has many eye-flickering mannerisms going on after he dramatically “transformed” himself to play the loose-cannon role of Dicky, the weight loss is not to the level of the 63 pounds he lost for ‘The Machinist’ – For me there are only a few other true method actors who can embody roles to such dramatic levels, Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert De Niro.
Then just when you think Bale as blown you off your feet, Amy Adams steps into the ring as Micky’s girlfriend, Charlene – Adams is a terrific actress who has proven she can assail anything from dramas to comedies to musicals and pull them off with skill and ease. Here, she is in her most prominent role and most vulnerable, where she is strong enough and able to stand up for herself in a tough crowd, both at the bar where she works and amongst the seven Eklund sisters who label her an “MTV” girl, who are a nasty bunch you wouldn’t want to cross, trust me.
Leading this very dysfunctional family at its core is Melissa Leo (‘Conviction’) who is fabulous as the hard, interfering, bossy and possessive mother\manager who at times only seems to have Micky’s paycheck at heart.
The weakest of the bunch of them all is Wahlberg and in all honesty I have never been a big fan of his, and he just does an adequate job every movie he’s cast in, it’s no different here which is surprising given he’s playing the central character of Micky.
Ultimately, The Fighter is a conventional, triumphant story against the odds and one that energizes you with its gripping family drama both on the inside and outside of the ring, making it an Oscar contender with true class.