The Fighter follows the true story of a down and out boxer Mickey “Irish” Ward (Mark Wahlburg) who has long been looked at as a stepping-stone for most boxers of the day. Mickey is also constantly in the shadow of his brother Dickey (Christian Bale) whose bout with Sugar Ray Leonard is the stuff of legend in their small town Lowell. However Dickey himself has also fallen on to hard time becoming consumed by crack cocaine leading to him being unable to be function in anyway. Keeping this broken family together is manger/mother Alice (Melissa Leo) who turns a blind eye to Dickey’s spiral into drug addiction and seems only centered on the recovery of her older suns far lost career.
It’s clear from the beginning that the Ward family is falling apart. Dickey is constantly late to his brother Mickey’s training sessions, Alice is consumed with painting her oldest son in the best light possible, and even sadder is that Mickey is trapped between all of it. After preparing for a fight that he hopes to get his career back on track the promoter switches fighters on Mickey to someone who is almost twenty more pounds then him. Needless to say Mickey is obliterated in the fight and is completely dishearten. In one of the best scenes with in the film Mickey is riding home from the fight and his family is completely ignoring the loss and his shattered self-esteem.
As you can see at its core The Fighter is a familial drama centered on the themes of denial and redemption. While to some degree many of these ideas have been explored in recent films such as The Wrestler, unlike Aronofsky, O’Russell choose to explore multiply angles and how each affects the other instead of a singular character study. This dynamic greatly elevates The Fighter from a simple melodrama to something much greater.
The true driving force behind The Fighter is actor Christian Bale and actress Melissa Leo. Bale embodies the fallen Dickey Ward, similar to his part in The Machinist Bale not only looks the part but plays it to a dot. His pompous attitude and “me first persona” does a great job at hiding what is truly eating up Dickey Ward, a sense of failure. Also to his side is Melissa Leo as Alice Ward who comes off as an uncompassionate goal driven women who is unwilling to see the pain that both of her sons are experiencing.
This pain is amped up with the sweeping cinematography of the film. O’Russell use the town of Lowell to show the depravity and hopelessness of all the characters within in the film. With sweeping shots of desolate and quiet streets to calm and easing camera movements O’Russell truly show the pains and hardships of both Lowell and the Ward family. O’Russell also sells this through his use of few actually professional extras instead opting to use natives of the town, giving the film a feeling of accuracy.
A rather subtle soundtrack also accompanies this ease, which is almost indistinct. However the real sound of the film is dedicated to the fights themselves, which are incredible in how they sound. From cheering crowds to distant announcer voice the mixing almost feel maliciously in its authenticity. Unlike most boxing or fighting films punches are not accented, the sound like muffled hits in comparison to the roar of the crowd around them.
Overall The Fighter is a film that is not an exercise, it’s not a simple rags to riches story. Instead O’Russell weaves a family melodrama beautifully with a story of a man who is simply caught in the middle. The Fighter also succeeds in a way that few films can in it ability to show the subtle power of great acting complemented with rather slow but powerful cinematography. O’Rusell achieves what few can, a movie that is not about who, but the product as a whole.
Video Feature: December 2010 Releases
Alex and Rorie take a look at some of the December 2010 theatrical releases.
The Fighter Trailer
Mark Wahlberg stars in this David O. Russell-directed film about the life of Irish boxer Micky Ward.
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