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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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No One is In His Corner

  • Dec 19, 2010
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 an earlier match with Shea Neary. This change might have stemmed from a desire to make the film even more symbolic, Neary being from Liverpool and Ward fighting against the odds on foreign soil. I dare not make that claim with any degree of certainty. Watch the film and decide for yourself. I’m sure it can be interpreted in a number of ways.
In the film, Micky (Mark Wahlberg) lives in the shadow of his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), himself a boxer who fought Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978 and came home a legend. Now aging and in the throes of a crack addiction, we find a camera crew from HBO following him around, the director shooting a documentary about his drug abuse. He has nothing but his memories of that long ago fight, which may be why he feels he must personally train Micky as he struggles to make a comeback. But it’s not merely a matter of personally training him; he never lets Micky make his own decisions about how a fight is supposed to be fought. When it comes to being in the ring, Dicky knows best, and that’s all there is to it. Micky cannot get a word in edgewise.
It’s even worse with his chain smoking mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), probably one of the least likable people I’ve seen a movie all year. She has appointed herself as Micky’s manager and never lets him have a say in anything. For reasons never adequately explained, she deeply distrusts anyone who can train Micky professionally; reputable managers are out to steal him blind, and anyone who suggests otherwise is a traitor to the family. Behind her all the way are her daughters, seven of the most unpleasant, unlovable women ever to pollute the silver screen. Watching them with their mother is a little like watching a cult figure brainwashing her disciples. There’s no better proof of this then a scene in which Alice and her girls simultaneously storm over to retrieve Micky from his girlfriend’s house.
Her name is Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams). She went to college on a scholarship but blew it by partying too hard and skipping too many classes. Now she’s stuck Lowell tending a seedy bar. She and Micky immediately hit it off, but the same cannot be said about her and Micky’s family. Alice and her daughters are convinced, through nothing other than rumor, that she’s a wild MTV skank. Charlene, tough and foul-mouthed, has no problem telling off Alice and Dicky, and it goes on like this until a very unlikely turnaround near the end of the film, when miraculously everyone is in Micky’s corner. In her own way, Charlene is just as controlling as Micky’s mother; both claim to have his best interests at heart, and both say whatever they can to prevent Micky from consorting with the other.
Have you noticed that I’ve said a lot about everyone around Micky but not so much about Micky? The film is essentially about a man who has been pushed around and lacks the ability to speak for himself. In this sense, the film is effective; we long for that moment when Micky will finally take a stand for his independence and make his family realize that his voice is just as important as theirs. Basically, he wants to get along with his family and his girlfriend. Why should he have to choose? When Dicky is arrested and sentenced to eight months in jail, Micky hires a new manager, who makes him promise to never again train with Dicky. At first, Micky agrees, for the arrest resulted in his right hand getting broken. But upon Dicky’s release, Micky releases that being trained by his brother is important to him. Again, why must he choose? Can’t we all just get along?
Despite receiving top billing, this really isn’t a vehicle for Mark Wahlberg. The spotlight is on Christian Bale, whose intense, oddly rhythmic take on Dicky is convincing. We have by now become accustomed to Bale suffering for his art, and “The Fighter” is no exception; to play an authentic crack head, he had to his lose a noticeable amount of weight. We have also heard plenty about his practice of staying in character during movie shoots; true to form, he retained Dicky’s powerful Boston accent all throughout filming. His performance is praiseworthy, and yet it’s also in service of a contrived story that hits all the predictable notes. “The Fighter” certainly has its good points, but I have an unshakable feeling that its claim of being based on a true story is a bit of an understatement.

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December 19, 2010
Great write up! I rather saw this one as more of familial issues rather than a mere story about a boxer. I thought the direction was more invested in Dickie's antics and Micky was well, I guess much in real life, he tends to just step back until he did need to step up. The thing is, with this type of movies, one character will always end up being better written than the other. I liked it, but I am sure some devices were made up to make it more entertaining.
More The Fighter (2010 film) reviews
review by . December 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A Fight To Win In Life and in The Boxing Ring!
   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” …
review by . March 23, 2011
Let's just start off by saying I hate sports movies, there I said it.  I didn't cry when at the end of Rudy, I didn't cheer at the end of Rocky and I didn't bother watching Friday Night Lights or Any Given Sunday.  To me, they're all the same in some way or another whether true or not, an over dramatic story about how someone with nothing rises up through adversity and blah, blah, blah.  It's mostly due to the fact that I'm not much of a sports fan …
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 . March 27, 2011
Christian Bale steals the show and earns his Oscar.
The Fighter is a bio-pic about two brothers Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale).   Micky is a club fighter who's career is marred by being in a tough weight class, poor management and a lack of drive, Dicky is a washed out former contender who's biggest claim to fame was knocking down "Sugar" Ray Leonard. The film follows Micky as he rises through the boxing ranks and Dicky's crash and burn (he has a serious crack addiction and it affects …
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 clichĂ©s. 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 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 …
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Chris Pandolfi ()
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Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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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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