It’s Oscar season again and a stew of movies have come out of Hollywood for a chance at the big prize. The Fighter is one of these movies and is based on boxer Micky Ward who came out of nowhere to capture a world title.
Despite the premise (and marketing) of the movie, the film is actually a family drama. Directed by David O. Russell, the film has Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward with Christian Bale starring as Micky’s crack-addicted older half-brother Dicky Eklund. The film is more about the relationship between the two than about boxing.
And the movie is better for it!
Anchored by strong performances from the two lead, The Fighter tracked the rise of Micky after Dicky hit rock-bottom due to his addiction to crack cocaine. They were helped by strong performances from the supporting cast. Amy Adams gave a strong performance as Charlene Fleming, the girlfriend of Micky who gave him the needed push to rise to the top, and (in my view) Melissa Leo gave the best performance in the movie. As Alice Ward, the mother of the two men, she was the perfect combination of steel, love and blissful ignorance. Loving her children too much to notice their flaws, watch for the scene where she saw Dicky jumping out of a crackhouse just to escape her.
However it’s not all roses and no thorns. As a family drama, this is great film but anyone looking for a boxing movie need to go elsewhere. Despite this being a movie about a boxer, there is surprising very little boxing in it. I understand why this was marketed as a boxing movie but it really isn’t one. I wouldn’t even call it a sport movie; it's a family drama.
I also felt that the movie ended a little early. The real “Irish” Micky Ward was best known for his epic trilogy of fights against Arturo Gatti. The film never show any of the 3 fights. In short, the movie ended before Micky Ward reached the height of his career. It was a funny choice to make as most autobiographical films track their protagonist till the time they reach the top but The Fighter ends while Mucky was still rising.
However if this sound like I am nitpicking; you are right. I am! The Fighter is a good movie with solid acting from a stellar cast. It’s small wonder that the movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Adams and Leo). Wahlberg should have been nominated as well. Frankly, there wasn't a poor performance from anyone.
Basically if you are looking for a good drama with great acting, this is the movie for you.