Genre: Drama, Sports
Country: United States
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams, Jack McGee, Mickey O’Keefe, Melissa McMeekin, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Jill Quigg, Dendrie Allyn Taylor, Kate O’Brien, Jenna Lamia, Frank Renzulli
Cameos: Sugar Ray Leonard, Richard Eklund, Tommy Eklund, Sean Eklund, George Michael Ward, Richard Eklund Jr, Michael Buffer, George Foreman
Director: David O. Russell
Run time: 115 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
I really, really like The Fighter. I will watch it several more times, I’m sure. (Partly because my wife LOVES it, and I know from past experience that means several viewings. I’m just thanking my lucky stars it will no longer be Sex and the City 2. The Fighter is not only a massive upgrade, it reduces the chance of an alarming rampage through Kanata on a weekday afternoon.)
This is the true story of “Irish” Micky Ward, a boxer out of Lowell, Massachusetts, and his remarkable, frustrating, creepy family. His older brother Dicky Eklund was the original “pride of Lowell” – his claim to fame was that as a boxer, he once went the distance with Sugar Ray Leonard, and even knocked Sugar Ray down at one point (although he may have slipped – the movie never really makes the case one way or another).
Chrisitan Bale is magnificent as Dicky, the former hometown hero who has become a joke as he is ravaged by crack addiction. Bale’s Dicky is charming and magnetic, and has been able to skate by on personality alone for a long time. His charm allows his mother (the terrific Melissa Leo) to turn a blind eye to his worsening addiction, and his brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) looks the other way as Dicky is constantly late for training or not showing up for a fight.
The rest of Ward’s family is lively and fascinating, if a little despicable. His sisters are loud and angry and ugly and mean – and there are a LOT of sisters (and half-sisters, and other relations). The only person who seems to be a reasonable, level-headed human being is Micky’s father, who realizes that the family is killing him. His mom and brother are so wrapped up in Micky and invested in him, that they would rather see him die in the ring with them in his corner than to achieve success without them.
The only problem I have with the film is Micky himself. With all these colourful yet sad people around him, (including his girlfriend, the great Amy Adams), Micky seems to have no personality of his own. He stays inexplicably loyal to his family, desipte the obvious fact that they are dragging him down with their selfish behaviour. WHY is he so loyal? Well it seems that…that’s…just the way things are.
Micky has a little daughter with an ex. This little girl pops up a couple of times during the movie, but I still know nothing about that situation. His ex seems to be a bitter, angry, vindictive woman who doesn’t want Micky to see the little girl, ever. Her new man (husband, boyfriend, I’m not sure) is nice to Micky and halfheartedly and ashamedly disagrees with his wife over her treatment of him. But again, I’m not sure why. Is it because Micky is a local hero, and her new man admires him? Or does he see how illogical her vindictiveness really is? And why is she so angry? Did Micky actually do something to deserve this, or is she just a lunatic? If you’re not going to answer those questions, don’t put it in the movie!
Wahlberg does a good job, conveying Micky’s tortured emotions as he must placate his family, his girlfriends, his trainers and the boxing world. But in the end, he never makes a single difficult decision. He tries, half-heartedly, then backs down. Every ultimatum given to him, from his girl, his family or his trainers, is never followed through to the end. And his story is oddly uninspiring, since he seems to just muddle through the tough choices, never actually makes one, and lucks into his title shot at the end.
For me, the movie was Dicky’s story. And that is a great one. The hometown hero, destroyed by drugs. The city of Lowell comes alive (I watched this in the theatre with two friends who recently moved back here from the Lowell area, and it really hit home for them). Dicky brings it to life. And he brings the town down with him. And maybe, through his brother, Dicky can bring some of that magic back.
The movie sort of plays out just like the HBO documentary that is being filmed throughout. Dicky thinks the film makers are filming his comeback, when in fact they are filming a documentary about crack addiction. Everyone else knows what the film is about (except maybe his mother, who is wilfully ignorant about her son’s obvious downward spiral). And I thought I was going to be watching a movie about Micky Ward’s unlikely resurrection. When in fact I was watching a movie about his brother’s (sort-of) redemption.
The Fighter comes out March 15th from Alliance Films. Yes, it has terrific performances, two of which won Oscars this year (Melissa Leo and Christian Bale in their supporting roles). But it’s a must-see for the terrific story, the direction and the incredible true story as much as it is for the acting.