The Fighter (15)
Movies love boxing. From Raging Bull to Cinderella Man, Million Dollar Baby to On The Waterfront, Rocky to Rocky II, III, and on and on, the ring has yielded many heroes, each slugging it out for the title of Greatest Boxing Movie Ever.
Into the fray steps The Fighter, the true story of boxer Micky Ward’s (Wahlberg) rise from stepping stone fighter to championship belt-winner, and his half-brother/trainer Dicky’s (Bale) battle with drugs and frustrated ambition.
Treading a line between the hard-edged realism of De Niro’s La Motta and the everyman hero of Stallone’s Balboa (without the sentimentality that crippled the latter Rocky films), The Fighter is a lean, energetic, engrossing story of divided loyalties and the pursuit of greatness.
Rooted in the achingly working class Lowell, Massachusetts, Micky’s family are doggedly faithful, albeit with underlying mixed motives, enforcing long-held values of family-first on the rising athlete.
Bale excels as the flawed older brother, committing to the role entirely by once again losing a painful amount of weight, the camera documenting his every demented action and gurning grin.
The real revelation here, however, is Wahlberg, embodying the weary boxer with sensitivity and poise, an anchored lead in a cast full of wonderfully stormy characters.
The fight scenes too, are as good as any found in the best of boxing films, given extra impact by being based on real events, and avoiding any tendency toward sensationalism.
In a cast dominated by two powerhouse leads, The Fighter finds depth in its wealth of supporting characters.
Amy Adams, enhances her burgeoning CV as the supportive, yet opinionated girlfriend, while the splendid Jack McGee, as the put-upon father of Micky and the husband of Alice Ward (a deliciously manipulative Melissa Leo), provides the film’s warm centre.
The Fighter is an inspiring story of both Micky and Dicky’s fight, in and out of the ring, to overcome expectations, regrets and prejudices, to carve their individual paths to success, as well as being a rollicking fight flick to boot.
Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale
David O Russell