Dec 23, 2010

Film Review: The Fighter

Paramount Pictures, 2010
Directed by David O. Russell

I reluctantly agreed to go to the movies the other day, and my less-than-enthusiastic attitude had nothing to do with David O. Russell's The Fighter. I was simply in a rotten mood and would have preferred to wallow in my self-pity for a few hours.

Thus, the fact that I actually enjoyed The Fighter says something about the quality of this film.

Mark Wahlberg stars in the true story of "Irish" Micky Ward, a blue collar boxer from the town of Lowell Massachusetts who achieved a measure of fame (and a few titles) in his thirties, an age when many fighters are trending down in their careers. This is one of the better roles that Wahlberg has ever appeared in, and I have since discarded my formerly dismissive attitude toward Wahlberg's acting abilities: Wahlberg was convincing, and he showed significant talent at developing a nuanced character.

Yet what most engrossed me was the portrayal by Christian Bale of Ward's older brother, Dicky Eklund. Bales must have lost 30 pounds in getting ready to play the crack-addicted Dicky, and the drug-induced insanity of Dicky was almost frightening in its stark reality.

The Fighter is not a pretty film, nor is it a sentimental heart-tugging piece of maudlin film making. You will cheer at times, and at others you will cringe at the harsh depictions of life on the meanest East Coast streets you might imagine. Ultimately you will walk away with a much greater understanding of the seamy world of professional boxing, and the cinematic ride is much more enjoyable than watching one of the cartoon-esque Rocky installments.

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