“The Fighter is a better boxing movie than any of the Rocky flicks.”
I even put that in quotations in case anyone in their promotional camps want a good blog-bite that’s cleanly cut out.
Actually, more aptly put would be:
“if you took all of the Rocky movies and mushed it into one two-hour movie, you’d get The Fighter.”
I won’t spoil this exceptional movie for you but suffice to say that even though there’s no Drago (“I must break you!”), there is the seemingly insurmountable foreign opponent.
This true story about the life and trials of “Irish” Micky Ward and his half-brother, Dicky Ecklund, stars Mark Wahlberg as Micky in the best role I’ve ever seen him in. He entirely immerses himself in the Boston-raised world of the 1990’s. The Fighter follows their topsy-turvy decade stretching from Micky’s consecutive losses in the early 90’s and subsequent hand injury to his return to the ring and beyond to 2000. Those who’ve followed boxing knows his tale. Outside the chaotic hurricane that is Mike Tyson, I never did. So this story was refreshing to me. A story that seems so complex that it would’ve been difficult to make up.
Christian Bale plays Micky’s drug-addled half-brother, Dicky. A former New England Welterweight champ, who’s claim to fame was an epic battle with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978, lives in his past trying to make that improbable comeback. He’s a shadow of his former self that he tries to ignore through his crack addition. The Fighter follows Dicky as he battles his crack dependence. His sorrowful story would be worth a movie on his own but since both characters are so intertwined to each other, it would’ve been difficult to pull off. Does Dicky eventually find redemption? A quick Google search will tell ya.
The director, David O. Russell (Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees), made an interesting choice in dealing with Dicky where he focused much of Dicky’s screen time during the period when HBO was filming a drug documentary on him in 1995 (High on Crack Street: Lost Lives of Lowell). Russell seemed to strive for authenticity by using actual archived footage and even choreographed the fight scenes to be as close to the real fights as possible. And the boxing scenes are every bit as good as you’ll find on any other Boxing movie except maybe Raging Bull. I found myself sitting at the edge of my seat cheering for Micky to win.
Amy Adams (who I’ve always been a fan for her sheer breadth of work) as the sexy and strong-willed girlfriend of Micky, Charlene Fleming, stood out in a sea of Bostonian women (mostly Ward’s sisters and mother). She played Charlene with gentle strength who was not afraid to let the claws out when she needed to. And she does!
Other notables is the actor who played Sergeant Mickey O’Keefe, Micky Ward’s trainer…which was Sergeant Mickey O’Keefe himself. Mark Wahlberg insisted on him playing himself for authenticity to which O’Keefe hesitantly consented. The other quirky notable (and fodder for trivia buffs) is that Conan O’Brien‘s own sister, Kate O’Brien, played one of Micky Ward’s sisters.
Speaking of Conan, did you know that Conan also had a movie short made out of his boxing travails?
The single weak-spot in this otherwise flawless movie is the rather abrupt ending that beckons back to the ending of Rocky II. With the exception of a short scene at the end that ties the start to the finish, the exposition almost seemed like an afterthought…or even a “no-thought”.
But I would gladly watch this movie over and over again.
When the Oscar noms come out later this month, I would be disappointed if The Fighter wasn’t there as Best Picture, Mark Wahlberg wasn’t there for Best Actor and Christian Bale wasn’t there for Best Supporting Actor. Do I expect them to win in either category? Not after seeing The King’s Speech…but I wouldn’t be disappointed either if they walked away with the prize.
The Fighter will pull you in with the quirky and endearing brotherly relationship between Micky and Dicky, will make you tear up when Dicky’s life falls apart, and make you scream in excitement (or maybe shift excitedly in your seat…I want to be realistic here!) during the boxing matches.
So I’ll say again, The Fighter is better than Million Dollar Baby, better than Cinderella Man, better than Raging Bull (except in the fight scenes) and slightly better than Rocky. If you all want to take me out for a boxing match after saying that, I’ll challenge you to a friendly game of Wii Boxing. Winner takes all…where “all” equals “I still get to keep this opinion and you get to say you beat me at boxing.”
9.5 Ward sisters out of 10