Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: The Fighter (2010) TH

A tale of fists and family

This is a film dealing with having a dream about doing something for yourself and then having to make sacrifices with personal relationships in order to get there. An up and coming boxer named Micky Ward (Wahlberg) from the rough town of Lowell, Mass in the '90s has a community that stands by him as well as a large family to give a helping hand with training, promotion and attempting to secure fights to show off his magic. Everybody gives their unconditional love the best they can, but are stuck in a routine and he wants to break away without hurting those who've always been there.

Dicky (Bale) is training his younger brother Micky, who always looked up to him, to make it as a pro. Dicky knows the sport like the back of his hand and is likable and passionate but isn't always in control as he's not able to help himself when it comes to abusing substances. It's evident to everybody but himself that he's still living in a certain part of his past with his mind stuck in a loop. Dicky is being filmed for an HBO documentary on crack addiction but that doesn't stop him from scheming and getting into trouble with the law. He's unreliable and their protective mother, who is also Micky's manager, tries but doesn't know any better which makes matters worse.

Micky gets more and more involved with a straight-shooting woman named Charlene (Adams) that works as a bartender. She's as much a warrior as himself and he's got to win her over, but once the lioness is tamed she lends courage and support to see through the barriers. A new promoter and trainer offer better opportunity with the promise of consistency, but the rule is as long as that doesn't include the reckless brother and overbearing mother. This puts Micky between a rock and a hard place as his brother--who now went through detox and gained some perspective from the documentary--gave him sound advice in a fight.

Some sports movies don't always find a balance between the struggle and the glory, and can fall into a trap of being predictable and crutched on the finale. "The Fighter," however, made it worth it due to a journey that grows and expands in between and doesn't gamble everything it's got on the "big one." This isn't selling the audience a you-can-do-it-too sports dream but rather to show that if you want to make it in anything, that making sacrifices, even impossible ones, is all part of the process of committing to your goals and aspirations. Micky is just one character among many, including the town of Lowell itself. It shows the real life people in positive and negative light, which gives some breathing room to the viewer instead of playing it as sappy and sentimental. The tone isn't all a heavy hitting drama, with some classic radio songs from an earlier era, as well as a layer of dry humor with some situations being slightly exaggerated for effect.

What truly made this picture stand out were the performances. Christian Bale did a fantastic job portraying the typical addict syndrome: it's never their fault, give them another chance, that person screwed them--it's all a conspiracy. It's uncanny if you've ever met or had contact with someone of the sort. The character makes promises he knows he can't keep, acts selfish, is a showboat for attention. Bale truly loses himself to the role as he got every single mannerism down to a T, and even with all negativity said didn't make you want to completely hate him--which makes sitting through this dramatic but not overbearing. Amy Adams went from making it big on "Catch Me If You Can" as the nice and innocent young girl, to here a hardened, street-tough woman who doesn't take any nonsense or just act as a feminine shoulder to cry on. It's refreshing to see a female role that isn't just pretty decoration for the background or if she's confident act like a one-note b with an itch. The mother and sisters--while slightly over-the-top to make an impression--came together as if they were just a close-knit family of locals that lean on each other. The performers ultimately made the story captivating and gave out a level of care for their trials and tribulations from this unheard of town to most in New England that made them what they were.

Director: David O. Russell (Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Website: IMDB