Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cinema--The Fighter

or: Life outside the ring.

One word to sum it up: Interesting.

Hollywood has this strange infatuation with sport. I mean, look at it this way: this years Oscar race couldn't have gone without a sport movie. Last year, a football drama of sorts, The Blind Side, got it's sticky beak in there, much to the dismay of many film buffs. This year, the sport movie at the Oscars comes in the form of The Fighter, which is obviously better than The Blind Side, but still has the same predictability that most movies of it's kind have. One of the things that The Fighter has over most sporty films? Great, great performances across the board. And it has a long hard look into relationships, too.

One of the trailers, I remember, showed very few scenes but seemed to capitalize on the films main marketing hook: 'BASED ON A TRUE STORY'. And hey, when it's 'BASED ON A TRUE STORY', you don't argue. The Fighter is a sport film, yes, as it follows the early parts of famed boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (played here by Mark Wahlberg), but at its heart, it is really a movie which examines the relationships between people and the road to becoming the big one. Of course, at the centre of this film is Micky, who at the beginning is trying to box his way to glory, with his crackhead ex-boxer brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) showing the ropes. During this time, there is a camera crew following Dicky around chronicling his life now it has been destroyed by drugs. Micky fights on, undoubtedly tired of being pushed by his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and father George (Jack McGee). He becomes distracted by fiery barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams), and as their relationship progresses, Micky becomes increasingly disinterested in his world of fighting, but soon realizes that it is never too late for a comeback.

Thank God this movie wasn't like The Karate Kid. I thought I may have to wallow through a solid hour and a half of meaningless flat scenes that are supposed to show power and the will to rise again...but luckily, it didn't. Instead, The Fighter moves at a comfortable pace, blending scenes of inspiration, romance, (drug) addiction, disenchantment with the world and of course, boxing. It goes without saying that the script is frequently funny, thanks to the colourful characters it pulls in and out of the movie, but sometimes its a little too wrapped up in being a great character piece, and felt a little wayward for me at some points. However, the rest of the movie is exhilarating and indeed very interesting to watch. From Micky's relationship with Charlene (and Charlene's relationship with everyone else) to Dicky's drug addiction and want for a comeback, there are some delightful components which elevate this film from the average, disposable popcorn fluff it could have been.

While it wasn't exactly the 'triumph' for me that many people said it was, but there was more than enough for me to like. David O. Russell may have taken Christopher Nolan's spot in the Best Director category this year, and even though I hold a grudge towards him, there is a great deal of creativity in his work. I particularly liked how he opted to use cameras from 1990's-era HBO to capture both the fighting sequences and the interview scenes with Dicky and Micky. Russell's direction seems to breathe life into this movie. On a minor note, the soundtrack for this film is frickin awesome too. Rock music, especially 'How You Like Me Now' from the start of the movie, makes it particularly kick-ass.

But hey, we all know that most of The Fighter's greatness comes from the performances. The brilliant, brilliant, brilliant performances. Mark Wahlberg is so underrated. While he was the one who trained for years and basically got this film off the ground, he was unfortunately missed from all the awards shows in favour of his other castmates. Which is understandable, in a way, but it certainly doesn't make it right. Melissa Leo, the front runner to win the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars this weekend, was amazing. Well, to be frank, she was a little frightening, but watching the way she interacted with the other characters (and not to mention the way she handled all those daughters) was admirable to watch. Christian Bale, the front runner to win the Best Supporting Actor award at the Oscars, is simply the best ever. How the hell hasn't this guy been nominated before? Reduced down to his small weight and a haggard looking figure, Bale steals the show by being a cocky and arrogant character who you also can't help but feel for. If he doesn't win, I'll sense conspiracy. However, though they're all great, my favourite out of the lot was Amy Adams. It was so nice to see my favourite actress - for playing sweet and innocent roles - swearing her head off, getting into a fight, standing up for what she believes in and pulling off scrunchies of all things. She was terrific. If only she could win the Oscar.

THE VERDICT: Though not as amazing as I thought it would be, The Fighter has a lot of heart that won me over in the end. It also is a great piece of master acting.

What I hoped for:

What I got:


  1. Hollywood definitely does have an obsession with Sports films...
    I'm not much of a fan of them though, I mean I haven't even seen Rocky!
    But I did watch a great boxing film not long ago, John Hustons Fat City, with a young Jeff Bridges, great film...

    Excellent review, this is et another new release I haven't seen but I will watch it eventually!

  2. I haven't seen Rocky either! I thought I was the only one.


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