When it comes to a film that portrays or contains boxing, I’ve got two titles that immediately came to mind. “Raging Bull” and “Rocky.” Obviously, for me the former was more superior. This film is a mix between the two. It has the drama and a dark passage that reminds me a lot to “Raging Bull,” and the more appealing to the masses underdog story a la “Rocky” to concludes the film. I, personally, loved it. The first and second act especially more and the general masses seems to love it too although I figured by the way they were cheering, they loved the third act — for me, wasn’t entirely new and a bit too much sugar — a bit more.
“The Fighter” follows Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a 30-ish boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts. He was managed by his mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) and trained by his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). His career was as good as in a drain. The first and the second act shows the dramas surrounding his not so smooth career accentuated by the eccentricities of the film’s two best performers, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. The third act would probably be more enjoyable to a more significant portion of the audiences as it was a simple underdog story that has often exercised but fortunately, to a rather elevating effect.
Mark Wahlberg as the titular character, is almost unremarkable. Fortunately, the way the film portrays Micky Ward had made it almost impossible to not rooting for him. His character is a far cry from Robert De Niro’s character in “Raging Bull,” and significantly less memorable than Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. It was perhaps his drawn and timid personae that warrant him an ‘unremarkable’ title, but I think, and this is almost certain, that he was simply overshadowed by his co-stars.
I’d say, even to the most anti-drama movie goers, nobody would’ve doubt the quality in which Christian Bale and Melissa Leo did for their respective roles. Christian Bale, as he always does, disappears into his character, loses some weight to a point that he was nearly unrecognizable (not as extreme as his infamous “The Machinist”), invested a significant amount of time studying real-life Dicky, absorbing his real-life character, and carries it all with such perfection it was beautiful. Melissa Leo will be remembered as a confident mother/manager. So confident that she’s blind about her own incompetence. You’ll hate her, but you’ll sympathize with her and that’s a good thing.
I was actually rooting for Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress. She was as usual, good. I mean, she didn’t become my favorite actress just because she’s pretty and all. Here, she was cast against her usual cute-ish girl type that I’ve been longing since her role in “Junebug.” But, as much as I love her, I’ve got to admit that she has no chance against Melissa Leo.
For me, personally, the highest point of the film was at the end of act two when the family held a welcoming party for Dicky, and Micky had to deliver a hard news for him in front of everyone of importance in the film. It was tense, and it showcased all three supporting characters at their best. Nearly each was at their breaking point at this moment and thus, reshaped their character. Simply beautiful filmmaking and storytelling. Now I don’t understand about what particular interests does Mr.Russell had with Mark Wahlberg (this is their third team-up and the fourth one is, I think, already a lock) but I personally think, that if this film should have any weak link, it was solely at Mr.Wahlberg’s expense.
The third act, however, was spear-headed by Mr.Wahlberg and as people I went to see this film with could attest, it was explosive. Toward the end, they cheered and as the lights went on, they were applauding. Not since “Inglourious Basterds” have I experienced such solid appreciation in the local theater and it should tell you about what the general responses were on this film especially during its third act, and I shouldn’t say anymore of it.
My rating: ***1/2 / **** – Christian Bale, and Melissa Leo clearly shows an upper hand in providing colors and solid acting for this one. Amy Adams isn’t that far behind, and Mark Wahlberg actually did quite well in spear-heading the third act. Though I can’t say that I liked David O. Russell’s direction (some of his shots had put a question mark in my mind), the underdog story part of the film is explosive and quite a treat to watch.