Boxing. It's a sport that has lost its appeal and popularity. It certainly no longer captivates the public the way it used to. And yet in spite of this, or because of it, Hollywood continues to tell the stories of yesteryear's stars. The latest entry in a long line of boxing movies, The Fighter features excellent performances and superb fight scenes, but lacks that knockout punch movies like this need.
In The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg stars as "Irish" Micky Ward, a B-list boxer who is contemplating retiring after several disappointing losses. Both aided and hindered by his dedicated but drug-addicted brother, played with meticulous detail by Christian Bale, Micky faces mounting challenges in life, including the realization that his family isn't as interested in his well being as he once thought.
The Fighter, first and foremost, is a movie about performances. Wahlberg, after a spate of bad performances (The Happening, The Lovely Bones), delivers one of the best of his career. While his character is suspiciously flawless, Wahlberg plays a fine Ward. In a weak year, he may be good enough to garner some Oscar attention.
Unfortunately for him, he - along with everyone else in the movie - is completely overshadowed by Christian Bale. Bale, long deprived of proper recognition despite top notch performances in films such as American Psycho, The Prestige and The Machinist, is a near lock for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Oscars. Bale, physically and mentally transformed into a hyperactive drug addict, steals every scene he's in. The Fighter is Christian Bale's movie.
Other supporting cast members also turn in fine performances. Though her character is intentionally obnoxious, Melissa Leo is nearly unrecognizable as Micky's mother. Amy Adams is also very good in an understated role as Micky's girlfriend.
The Fighter is an entertaining film that gets better as it goes along. Directed by David O. Russell, the movie looks great, highlighted by increasingly exciting fight sequences.
But it's not perfect. In fact, the movie itself is just okay. As engaging as it is, The Fighter doesn't feel like a true contender. The script by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasay and Eric Johnson is well written in many ways, and yet it's littered with just enough comedy to make you wonder how serious they intended the picture to be. Comedy in dramas is perfectly acceptable, but The Fighter steps out of place in more than a couple spots to deliver laughs.
The first act is also weak at times and could have been tightened up in spots. The characters are also inconsistently developed. As mentioned early, Micky Wade is fully fleshed out and yet he is suspiciously the only character with no flaws to speak of whatsoever. Aside from Bale, the rest of his family members are more like caricatures at times. As for Adams' character, the screenplay gives up on developing her halfway through and actually makes her surprisingly unlikable.
The Fighter features an Oscar-worthy performance by Christian Bale and is an entertaining, relatively well made drama, but for a variety of reasons it is not the serious Oscar contender it wants to be.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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