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The Fighter

David O. Russell's 2010 film chronicling the rise of an up and coming boxer and his drug addict ex-boxer brother.

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FIGHT TO WIN in Life and in The Boxing Ring!

  • Dec 18, 2010

Sports dramas that channel an inspiring ‘underdog’ story. It is pretty cliché nowadays in the halls of filmmaking. Well, director David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” stems from cliché but then again, sometimes real life is all about cliché. It centers on the real-life story of Irish boxer Micky Ward and his half-brother Dickie Eklund. This film is the third collaboration between Russell and Wahlberg, the first two being “Three Kings” and “I Heart Huckabees”. At first look, “The Fighter” looks like another boxing story that emulates the Oscar-winning “Rocky” but instead it sets its eyes on the human and familial relationships in the middle of conflict. Yes, the film is an disconcerted one, but I was impressed with the amount of spirit found from its real-world inspiration that it manages to overcome its weaknesses.

In Lowell, Massachusetts, Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale) is a household name. He is the former fighter who knocked down the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. Dickie’s heart belongs to a few things: boxing, his brother, Micky (Mark Wahlberg) and crack. Following an unfair loss to a much bigger boxer and the imprisonment of the brother he looked up to, Micky is driven to re-evaluate his career and the toxicity of his family. Finding comfort and direction in the arms of a beautiful bar girl named Charlene (Amy Adams), Micky finds renewed vigor and seems poised for a title fight. But, will this new direction destroy the bond between two siblings?

                   A scene from "The Fighter."

Let’s just say that much like the people from whom this film was based on, “The Fighter” overcomes something that held it back; the film manages to overcome its clichéd elements to become compelling, engaging and moving in ways that is truly refreshing. The direction grabbed the story from the insides and managed to take the focus off its tired devices to something truly life-like as I found the characters easy to like and root for despite their flaws. It was really refreshing to see the film find its footing as it focuses on familial issues and the sight of harmony between the lives of two brothers whose lives have been broken in the past because of misfortune or their own mistakes. The film emulates a lively pace that mixes humor, dramatic sequences and even hard-hitting boxing matches which I found enthralling.

Part of the things that make “The Fighter” different from the beloved “Rocky” was that Ward wasn’t alone in his journey. His career as a boxer is helmed by his mother-manager (played by Melissa Leo) and his brother, former title contender Dickie (Christian Bale) who serves as his trainer. The familial issues and drama that coincides with the politics of boxing are what made this movie different from Stallone’s film. The film is a fresh character piece that brings the relationship of the two brothers into the spotlight; the two are extremely close and yet, they are so different. The two prove to be at war with both themselves and their family. There is a complexity to the characters as they look and feel very real. The interplay seems to play out as a duality of sorts and it is very believable.

                       Mark Wahlberg as Mickey Ward and Amy Adams as Charlene in ``The Fighter.''

                     A scene from "The Fighter."

Micky’s career finds a point where the right move would be to distance himself from his suffocating family while Dicky is a troubled man whose past glory was put on a pedestal by his younger brother. As Micky outgrows his family, he finds new confidence in the arms of a sexy bartender named Charlene (Amy Adams), Micky steps into new successes proving the old adage that ‘behind each great man, there lies a great woman’; and that the right woman can change a man for the better. However, it seems like to become successful, Micky must turn his back on his family as he tries to overcome the disease that seemed to plague his career. Dickie has the talent to be a brilliant trainer, but his life is a mess, as he hangs out with the wrong crowd. Christian Bale steals the show as Eklund, as he proves to be the more compelling character of the two. Sure, Wahlberg was given the short end of the stick and so while he did perform real well, his role was limited to scenes of emotional humiliation and training montages, but Bale truly felt like he became Eklund. I was real convinced that he was Dickie Eklund; as his features become the haunting image of a drug user and a fellow truly at the end of his rope. Bale’s efforts to become Eklund was just eerie, as he transforms his features, skin and mannerisms to fit his role. The two did manage to reach a dynamic chemistry as they exchange the dialogue with precision in emotion.

                  Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward and Christian Bale as Dickie Eklund in "The Fighter."

Another surprise would be the performance of Amy Adams. She is convincing as the sexy, spunky and gutsy Charlene as she proves to be the no-nonsense female character that points Micky to the right direction. There are worthwhile scenes with Charlene confronting Micky’s family and I was awed with the way Adams stood her ground in the presence of all Micky’s sisters and his mother. Melissa Leo was charismatic as the mother of the two brothers albeit maybe a bit heavy in delivery but effective nonetheless. The rest of the supporting cast was good as this Boston town comes to life through their interactions.

The direction was spot on in mixing humor, bad language and drama in its sequences. I did detect that Russell was more invested in Dickie’s oddities and manic behavior than Micky’s new drive to win, I suppose a dying light is just much easier to command than a rising soul. Russell seems to sidestep the conventions of a sports drama by focusing more on Dickie and I would have to say that I was relieved. Yet, to all the careful balancing of scenes, one character appears better written than the other; this is a common issue with movies such as this but this is a minor complaint that I barely noticed. There were also times when the direction became engulfed with its momentum, that it forgot to dwindle for the expression of emotions, that some scenes felt a little cartoonish, but I guess it was all because of the fervor behind the film, and I totally can excuse its small mistakes. Besides, Adams, Wahlberg and Bale proved their worth when the film was close to these problems.

Russell also succeeds in bringing the boxing ring to life and there were times that I could almost feel that I was witnessing a real fight. From the training sequences and the body movements, Russell seemed to have done his homework. The boxers moved like real fighters and I was so relieved that the fight themselves didn‘t feel choreographed. The direction seemed focused on realism and dramatic impact without obvious Hollywood manipulations of the scenes. Accompanied by a great soundtrack comprised of propulsive songs that fit its period and edited with an evocative sense of boxing politics and neighborhood atmosphere, “The Fighter” proves to be a knockout punch.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

               A scene from "The Fighter."

               Christian Bale as Dickie in ``The Fighter.''

               Christian Bale as Dickie, Melissa Leo as Alice and Mark Wahlberg as Mickey Ward in ``The Fighter.''

              A scene from "The Fighter."

Poster art for "The Fighter" Poster art for "The Fighter"

A Fight To Win In Life and in The Boxing Ring! A Fight To Win In Life and in The Boxing Ring! A Fight To Win In Life and in The Boxing Ring!

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December 22, 2010
Bale's one of those actors who likes to change his body from film to film. I see his going with a version of his look from THE MECHANIC here--sort of emaciated. I'll be catching this one on DVD, but I'll definitely be catching it.
December 22, 2010
Bale stole the show IMHO as well as Amy Adams. Me and the count were talking about how these drastic weight changes can't be good for one's heart. I know he does the diets under the supervision of a physician but still, it may have some side effects later down the line...
December 23, 2010
I'm sure it will. He takes it to such extremes that even a doctor's supervision won't matter in the end.
December 23, 2010
that is one guy committed to his art I tell yah. and now, he is closing to shooting the next Batman film and it would require him to bulk up.
December 23, 2010
That stuff is really bad for you heart. it's actually worse than just being fat all your life.
December 20, 2010
Nice, Woo! I'm really digging the cast, not to mention the sound of it from your review ;)
December 21, 2010
I think you'll like it. I really liked Adams' spunky character, she stood up to an army of angry sisters LOL!
December 21, 2010
lol, an army of angry sisters is no bueno!
December 20, 2010
My grandfather, who's 84, saw this film and liked it. It's on my TBW list. :)
December 20, 2010
cool! I really enjoyed this one. Bale just stole the show with his odd manic performance.
December 20, 2010
That's Bale for you. :D
December 20, 2010
Wow Woo - great write up; this is the second review I have read on this movie; I really want to see this one for sure!!
December 20, 2010
I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the energy behind the odd blend of humor and drama injected into it. Bale stole the show and Adams had a foul-mouthed charisma about her LOL!
December 18, 2010
Oh you know I am seeing this one, we are going tonight or 2morrow depending on how early people can get off tonight. I was wondering about Bale if this film and I am lad to read he steals the show. EXCELLENT review WP, EXCELLENT.
December 19, 2010
Thanks, man. I enjoyed writing this one review too! I had a lot to take in and express because of the film's quality. Now I also reviewed another movie that is disappointing; TRON, check it out here. Should've seen the TEMPEST instead.  
December 18, 2010
It's got a great cast, but I think I'll wait until it hits DVD. Sports movies are kind of a repellant to me when it comes to theatrical releases, but I'll definitely see this. Damn, Bale's got to stop gaining and losing weight like this. He looks like he's about 50. not good for one's health.
December 18, 2010
I agree. My friend got passes so I came along. Bale was barely recognizable--he was skinny but not as haunting as in THE MACHINIST. He really looked like a crack addict.
December 18, 2010
For a guy in his mid-30s, he's going to have a lot of premature health problems, especially with his heart. These drastic weight changes aren't good for anyone.
December 18, 2010
He did say that he does these diets with the supervision of a physician, but still it is strainful for his heart to undergo those changes...
December 20, 2010
I agree; he looks like crap and is too thin; you're right Count, he looks old too.
More The Fighter (2010 film) reviews
review by . January 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Around the end of the year one of the things that typically happens is you get a lot of good... but boring movies.  The end of 2010 wasn't like this really.  Most of the movies driving for the Oscar actually entertained.  Usually far too many get themselves far too concerned with being artistic and intellectual.  Which is actually well and good, but they always miss the mark in terms of entertainment.  The Fighter does another turn around by being a film that isn't …
review by . February 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Mark Wahlberg stars as Micky "Irish" Ward, a young man seemingly going no where in Lowell, MA. but with a dream of becoming the next boxing welterweight champion of the world.    He's managed by his mother and his brother. Christian Bale plays Micky's brother. In the film Bale has a drug habit and constantly lets his brother down, not showing up for fights and scheduling fights with fighters who are inappropriate for Micky. Eventually, Bale is arrested and sent to jail.    Du …
review by . January 01, 2011
THE FIGHTER may be based on a true story, but that doesn't mean that much of the skeleton of its plot doesn't feel like a rehash of Hollywood clichés. Struggling blue-collar guy from a dysfunctional family gains a shot, late in life, at boxing glory. Various obstacles get in his way, but with the love of a good woman and some unconventional training & methods…he gets his shot at the title. It's the kind of plot that would not normally get my blood pumping in anticipation.     But …
review by . April 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     David O. Russell hasn't made a good film since "Three Kings", which isn't saying too much considering there was only one other film between that one and "The Fighter", and it was called "I Heart Huckabees". I was not pleased with that film, and I didn't think it functioned well enough to be a true "David O. Russell film". Now here is what I would call a "David O. Russell film", and I say that with the utmost respect. Here it is, the film that everyone has …
review by . January 22, 2011
This was an absolutely wonderful film. I was absolutely floored by it even though I saw it with two people who were less than thrilled to be there. The performances were top-notch and this would be on my Best Movies I Saw in 2010 list if I didn't see this in 2011. Like The King's Speech, this is the perfect Oscar formula and that's sure to pay off come awards time. First of all, the Academy has often had a thing for uplifting dramas (whether or not they pertain to sports) and secondly, …
review by . December 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
As is the case with many inspirational sports movies, “The Fighter” uses physical competition as a metaphor for emotional competition. It’s based on the true story of Lowell, Massachusetts boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, who went pro in 1985, went on hiatus after losing four consecutive fights in 1990, and then made a comeback that lasted from 1997 until his retirement in 2003. His final match was a trilogy of fights with Arturo Gatti, but all events in the film lead up to …
review by . December 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Now that's what I call a fight!
THE FIGHTER   Written by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy   Directed by David O. Russell   Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo       Before a boxer sets foot in any ring, he most likely has a plan of attack in place.  If he is serious about what he does, he has studied his opponent; he knows his strategies, his weaknesses.  A great boxer is in control of the game even when it seems like he might …
review by . March 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Fighter Will Keep You Interested, Just Like Rocky Did.
It is not too often lately that my wife and I  get a chance to see a movie, so when this came to our local theater we decided to take the night off from school work and just plain work. So, if you liked the movie Rocky then you will love this true story, The Fighter is rated "R" and lasts for just a shade under two hours. This movie starring Mark Wahlberg who portrays Micky Ward, who's rise to stardom mimics the Rocky movies a little bit. Micky goes through all of the trials and …
review by . April 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
“The Fighter” plays like “Rocky” set in the same neighborhood as “Gone Baby Gone;” indeed, Ben Affleck ought to watch this film to understand why his first film was so much better than his most recent one, “The Town.” I’ve mentioned before that lower-class, Irish-Catholic Boston has become fertile ground for cinema the last few years, and “The Fighter” can take its place alongside “Mystic River,” “The Departed” …
review by . January 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Recently it seems like a lot of movies are moving Northeast. The cities here seem to have split personalities from hoity-toity, ivy league elitism to gritty drug filled cesspools. Seeing this movie in Boston added a little something special to the screening. Boston often gets depicted as a tough place to live with a lot of characters who tend to be rough around the edges. The Boston accent is one of the most notorious out there and often gets butchered as actors try to pick up the nuances of Boston, …
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About this movie


The Fighter
is an upcoming film directed by David O. Russell and executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, starring Mark Wahlberg. The film centers on the life of professional boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his older brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale). Amy Adams has also been confirmed as a love interest of Ward. The film is set to be released worldwide in theaters on December 10, 2010. The film is Russell and Wahlberg's third film collaboration, following Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees.
Darren Aronofsky was previously attached to direct before David O. Russell. Both Matt Damon and Brad Pitt were also once attached to play Dick Eklund before the role went to Christian Bale.  Bale has reportedly been training for the role. About the film, he said, "It’s a true story of two incredibly gifted boxers who were half brothers. The one, Dicky Ecklund, who fought Sugar Ray Leonard at a very young age, when he was twenty-one, was an incredible natural talent. He lived a very hard life. Then he came to train his brother, Irish Mickey Ward, to the world title." Wahlberg also trained for two years for the role of Mickey Ward. A trailer was released on September 15, 2010.
Filming began in July 2009 in Lowell, Massachusetts and was completed by September. Filming continued at Paramount in April 2010 for final additional scenes.
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Director: David O. Russell
Genre: Drama, Sport
Release Date: Dec. 10, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Paul Attanasio
Runtime: 115 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures Corp.
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