The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams came in for rave reviews on its release and garnered a number of award nominations. Was it worth all the hassle, or was it a case of overblown hype?
Good movies tells good stories in a good way. Often what makes a film fail is either the story or the way the story is told. That is as much about the directing, the acting, the pace of the film, the editing and the quality of those background elements that you only notice when it goes horribly wrong, like music or locations.
The film tells the story of Mickey Ward as he looks to develop his boxing career in the shadow of being the younger brother of Dickie, who had a high profile fight against Sugar Ray Leonard and became a hometown hero as a result. Dickie is training his brother, but also has significant drug abuse issues. Their mother Alice acts as a manager for Mickey, but after one fight loss too many Mickey begins to feel the family factor is working against him especially with his older brother drawing more of the attention. the story explores Mickey’s rise to a championship opportunity with the support of his girlfriend Charlene (Adams), whilst his brother deals with his issues in the ring and out. It’s a film about fighting against the odds, the pressure of family and overcoming to succeed.
The Fighter is a good movie, not because it’s groundbreaking in anyway. If you were studying the film you could pick predictable factors throughout. What makes it so compelling is that it has a good story, sturcutred well with flawed characters brilliantly fleshed out to outline the quest and the barrier that prevents the success of the quest. That is credit to the writers of the story which was based on a true story. It is credit to the director who evidently was confident in letting his actors portray the characters and guide the story throught its ups and downs.
It is the performances that attracted a lot of the attention and the first place to start is with the part played by Christian Bale. Already with a reputation for inhabiting his roles with an intensity that is usually attributed to greats like Pacino, Hoffman and De Niro, Bale puts in an incredibly strong performance. He has a strong aura on the screen and demands attention at points giving the impression the story of the film surrounds him so captivating is he. It is no surprise that he won plaudits and awards for his performance, such is the strength.
This partly overshadows, however, the excellent role played by Mark Wahlberg in what can at least nominally be regarded as the lead role. the sign of a good actor is not necessarily his versatility and flexibility, but in choosing good parts and fitting them well. A number of times now Wahlberg has chosen very well and this is another example of that. He plays Mickey with just the right amount of passion and interest without seeking to be the show-off in the film and his dynamic both with Bale and Adams is natural and not contrived.
The generosity of the guy in the starring role helps the piece come across as more an ensemble deal and the other main players like Adams and Melissa Leo as Alice come through really strongly. Special mention to Mickey O’Keefe who plays himself and does not look out of place with the seasoned professionals.
The sign of a good story involves the power of emotion and this story evoked responses like of laughter on occasions, like when Alice and her many female brood go and confront Charlene at her home. In the bigger picture there is the strength and importance of relationships and when it comes to its conclusion it evokes strong emotional responses because of what has been excellently built in the run-up to its conclusion. I have no shame in admitting tears did run down my face as I saw how things ended up in the film.
That further reinforces the point about it being a good film. everyone can talk about seeing something similar in Rocky or Raging Bull. People can make those references, yet The Fighter still stands on its own merits as a beautiful moving piece of film capturing the best and worst of the human condition even within the same person.
This really is a film worth checking whether you are a fight fan or not it shares many of the same traits that make other stories so intriguing.