Fighting For Everything
I love boxing movies. I love Christian Bale movies. I liked The Fighter. When a movie gets four acting nominations from the Golden Globes, along with Best Picture and Director, I expected a great film. The Fighter was a really good movie, but something just seemed off to make it great. I really can’t put my finger on it. My only thought was that it struggled with what story they were trying to tell. Dicky’s? Micky’s? Lowell’s?
The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell, follows Dicky Eklund and his younger brother Micky Ward. Christian Bale’s performance as the crack addicted, once promising boxer, Dicky, was something to see. It was his best role since The Machinist. Bale just immerses himself in his roles, and it shows. Wahlberg plays Micky Ward. He was not as electrifying as he was in The Departed, but he was still great. The movie opens with a documentary crew following Dicky as he is on his road to a comeback, or so Dicky thinks. They are really there to show the effects of crack.
Dicky is the corner man and trainer for Micky. But, due to the crack addiction, Dicky is very unreliable. The other corner man and trainer is Mickey O’Keefe, the sheriff, who was played by O’Keefe himself. The movie opens with Dicky leading the documentary crew through the streets of Lowell, Pennsylvania. He is the local legend for knocking Sugar Ray Leonard down in boxing match. He is preparing for his supposed comeback. He is also training Micky for his next fight.
Before leaving for Las Vegas for the fight, Micky meets Charlene Fleming, played by the always beautiful Amy Adams. She is a bartender at the local tavern. Once in Vegas, Micky and Dicky are informed that the fighter they were preparing for had to pull out due to the flu. So, Alice and Dicky make the decision that Dicky will fight a replacement that is 20 pounds bigger. The fight is a disaster.
Upon his return, Micky and Charlene become a pair, and this drives a wedge into the awkward family dynamic. Charlene makes Micky question whether his brother and mother have his best interest in mind. His father, George, gets his a real manager after Dicky gets arrested. There are a few stipulations, no more Alice and no more Dicky.
With his new manager, Micky gets his boxing career back on track. He picks up a few wins, and then gets a real shot at a real fighter. Dicky gives advice that proves crucial to winning the fight. With that win, Dicky gets a title shot.
Now, we are over halfway through this movie, and there has been conflict throughout. Dicky and Micky have five sisters, all who hate Charlene. Alice hates the new manager since she was his old manager. George going against the family causes more strife. Dicky gets clean and finds out what the documentary crew was really filming while in jail. With the big title shot on the horizon, family and friends are torn and fighting. The final conflict becomes can Micky survive all this and still focus on the fight.
The Fighter’s climactic fight was for the title. What I found interesting was, “Irish” Micky is best remembered for his trilogy of fights against Arturo Gatti, two of which won Ring magazine’s fight of the year honor. These are not mentioned at all. I found that odd. Oh well, you can only tell so much. A similar thing was done with Michael Mann’s Ali.
One of the biggest problems this movie had was the feel and tone. Each actor was great in their respective role, but none of them really had any chemistry. Melissa Leo was amazing as Alice Ward, but she didn’t have a lot of chemistry with Christian Bale or Mark Wahlberg. Mark and Christian had enough to make it work. Amy Adams was good. She shined in her scenes where she was feuding with the sisters.
The writing was good. The direction was good. There was just something off. Like I said, I love boxing movies. Maybe I had too high expectations. I wanted to love The Fighter. The reviews are great. I would still give this a solid 8/10. But I was really hoping for a 10. Verdict: While it wasn’t what I was wanting it to be, it was still a solid movie with solid acting, directing, and writing. Worth the money, especially a matinee showing.