David O. Russell’s The Fighter is based on a true story about the boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg). Micky involves his entire family around his boxing career; using his half-brother Dicky (Christian Bale) as his trainer, his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) as his manager and his seven sisters act as sort of his cheerleader squad.
The Fighter begins in 1993 in Lowell, Massachusetts as an HBO documentary crew is there to film the older brother Dicky. The crew follows him around the streets and his daily interactions with the locals. Dicky believes the documentary crew is capturing his comeback into boxing as he once had a successful but short career himself. The highlight of his career, and quite possibly his life, is that he knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard. A fact that you will not forget as he will remind you at any chance he gets, although many people speculate that Sugar Ray Leonard tripped.
But the real reason behind the documentary is not to showcase his comeback but instead a look on how a one-time boxing hero is now a cocaine addict and criminal. Because Dicky spends most of his time getting high he is often late to training, still you can tell that he is very passionate about boxing and wants to see his brother succeed.
Up to this point, Micky is just considered a “stepping stone” of a fighter, one favored fighters use for as an easy win to climb the ranks. Although he has the talent to be a greater fighter, his dysfunctional family may be getting in the way. Micky credits everything he knows about boxing to his brother Dicky, whom he greatly idolizes even with his setbacks.
Micky’s new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) confirms his suspicion of his family hindering his chances to advance his career into something he can be proud of. Micky is obviously torn between his family and his desire to win a championship belt and Charlene is there to guide him along.
The opportunity to train in Vegas is given to Micky under the condition that he leaves his mother and brother behind. Charlene sort of pushes him to accept the offer as it would eventually lead him to a championship fight. Alice was never very accepting of Charlene’s new role in Micky’s life but more so as a mother than a manager. Alice thinks Charlene is trying to control Micky rather than seeing she is actually trying to help.
Still, Alice and Dicky follow them down to Vegas where Micky is ultimately forced to decide between his new crew including his girlfriend Charlene or his family. Micky breaks down and tells his family his is about him and his shot at winning the championship, he wants to decide how things will be ran. Doing so may result in losing his girlfriend, loyalty to his family or not winning the championship. It’s a tough fight for him already and he is not even in the ring yet.
The scene that stood out to me the most was when Dicky watches the documentary made about him, all excited for it only to realize it is about his addiction instead of his career. It not only embarrassed him but acted as a wake-up call for him, a blessing in disguise. Given the opportunity to go back to his old lifestyle when he runs into his old coke addict friends, he declines. That had more of an impact on me than any other part of the film.
Christian Bale might as well be working on this acceptance speech as he is a clear choice for Best Supporting Male at this year’s Oscars. He shows off his amazing talent portraying the cocky, twitchy and passionate ex-boxer now trainer. His dedication for the role is visually shown as he lost a significant amount of weight, repeating what he did before in The Machinist (then he was then forced to put it all back on for his role as Batman). Bale easily steals the film and is what makes it amazing.
It is hard to judge Mark Wahlberg’s performance because he, for the most part, stays out of the way. But he does this on purpose as the story is more focused on his brother Dicky. Micky is not supposed to have a huge personality but instead just be determined to win. Wahlberg was definitely physically built for the role and the fighting scenes looked real.
On the surface, The Fighter is just another boxing film that we have seen before in Raging Bull, Rocky and Million Dollar Baby, but somehow it stays relevant and memorable. The story is enjoyable but the acting is what makes this film so great. It does not get much better than Bale as far acting goes and Wahlberg, Adams and Leo follow his lead with solid performances as well.