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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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Interesting story, well-told and generally well-acted

  • Jan 1, 2011
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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 of course, THE FIGHTHER is brought to us by the singular director David O. Russell (the brilliant and very sadly overlooked THREE KINGS), and features some amazing performers. It's a true story. And it's a two-way shot-at-redemption story.

Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a boxer from Lowell, MA who has been under the management of his mother (Melissa Leo) and the tutelage of his half-brother Dickey (Christian Bale). He's not had much luck, mostly serving as a punching bag and stepping-stone for other boxers. Dickey is himself a boxer, one who once battled Sugar Ray Leonard and knocked him down during a fight. But Dickey is getting on in years AND he has a pretty serious problem with crack cocaine. His drug usage makes him late for training, late for flights and just generally a volatile and scary person to be around. In the early going of the film, an HBO crew follows Dickey and his family around…Dickey crows about how the film crew is documenting his comeback. And we have to wonder how anyone could seriously think this shrunken, mumbling, twitching man could ever mount a comeback.

Mickey seems doomed to a 3rd class boxer forever…and already sees a life of working on a roadcrew or a roofing company as the only thing he has to look forward to. He comes from a FRIGHTENING family. His mother lives in a middle-class house with her SEVEN daughters. All these women are imposing and just a little crazy. The daughters cling to their mother like harpies-in-training…and Mom is a force of nature. She clearly believes that she has business savvy and that she has the best interests of her sons in mind. But she is really a blue-collar monster. Her domineering presence has stopped the men in her life, including her current husband, from blossoming.

But Mickey meets a bar girl, who is just as rough and blue-collar as anyone else (Amy Adams)…but this is the girl who will pry him away from his family. She's tough and fearless. There's a great scene where she is first introduced to all the women…and the scrutiny, name-calling and obvious hatred that fills the overcrowded living room would surely crush a lesser woman. But Adams stands her ground, and finally Mickey can talk back too…just a little. Later, circumstance gives Mickey the chance to take on a new manager and some new training, and his career begins to head in a new direction.

I don't want to say any more. The journey these characters take is gripping stuff, and I'd hate to spoil anymore. And the journey is greatly aided by some terrific acting. Melissa Leo (so fantastic a couple of years ago in FROZEN RIVER, and prior to that in 21 GRAMS) is a powerhouse. Here's an actress who has no ego and no qualms about making herself physically and emotionally ugly. Just knowing she was in the film was enough to grab my interest…she's that good. Amy Adams plays against type as a character earthier than we are accustomed to from her…and she's amusing and fun. Wahlberg gives another restrained but effective performance. He has a style that is becoming very familiar now…the nice guy who is perhaps slow to speak and slower to anger…but when it comes out, watch out. But we root for him throughout, and it is his emotional journey we follow gladly. Christian Bale, however, is more problematic. He absolutely looks the part…once again, he's dropped weight and made himself look his part. But his manic energy, which is appropriate for his drug-addled character, seems showy and flashy. The other characters feel like people we might meet and recognize…Bale is acting on another, more "actorish" level, and he feels removed from everyone else. For him, this appears to be "The Christian Bale Show." I admit, I'm not a fan…I really dislike him as Batman/Bruce Wayne…but every time I think I'm being too hard on the guy, he reaffirms my inclination to call him vastly overrated. (That being said, he WAS great in AMERICAN PSYCHO.)

THE FIGHTER isn't quite the movie of the year. But it's endlessly interesting, directed in an effective and restrained manner, and for the most part, impeccably acted. The locales feel authentic. The boxing scenes are excellent and easy to follow. And the fact that it's true certainly adds something. I recommend it enthusiastically.

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January 01, 2011
I liked this one quite a bit. It was built on cliched devices, and yet it managed to make me look beyond those cliches. The performances were phenomenal here. Great review!
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 . 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 …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … 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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