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FILM REVIEW: The Fighter

2nd March 2011

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The Fighter

The Fighter follows the life of the unfortunate boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) who is down on his luck and manipulated by his family. He meets Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams) who tries to put him on the right track, and with a control-freak mother (Melissa Leo) and crack addict brother (Christian Bale) holding him down, he goes for one last shot at the big time.

With a pop music soundtrack and what is seemingly a textbook against-all-odds boxing story, The Fighter had the potential to be average. Hence, perhaps, why it suffered from a lack of interest from filmmakers. However, it was lifted from the likely scrapheap of mediocrity by some stunning performances and fabulous direction.

Mark Wahlberg is the leading actor but, like The Dark Knight, it’s all about the other guy. He and Adams do, however, produce some very solid performances.

Christian Bale plays the emaciated crack addict and ex-boxer Dick Eklund with a complexity well deserving of his academy award. The ego that we might previously have become used to in The Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation has gone, as Bale presents us with a sad, desperate, kind and utterly human character. Mesmerising throughout, we can’t take our eyes off this walking car crash as he languishes in self-denial and embarrassment. But there is a gentleness and kind-heartedness to his character that makes the film all the more real.

 In some ways, however, one character who is even more real is Micky’s mother (Melissa Leo) who – again worthy of her Oscar – could well be someone plucked from a reality TV show. Utterly convincing and stingingly memorable, her performance paradoxically helps to turn the theoretically mundane story into a remarkable one due to her realism.

Director David O. Russel (Three Kings) balances the movie on a knife edge between tragedy and laughter. He particularly manages the fight sequences well by keeping them from becoming two men relentlessly slugging it out, and filling them with suspense.

At the heart of The Fighter are the social and emotional troubles of a family. With this enduring base, the fusion of humour and disaster, and the stunning performances of Bale and Leo, The Fighter is a truly spectacular film.





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