Friday, December 10, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Fighter

The Fighter
Directed by David O. Russell
Released December 10, 2010

A film with a title like “The Fighter” sounds awfully presumptuous. It’s not as if there’s only one fighter in the world, and to try to argue that this film’s protagonist, Mickey Ward, is the definitive fighter doesn’t seem right. Yet that’s not what director David O. Russell’s latest film is trying to do at all. Mickey Ward, a real-life boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, struggled for many years to define himself as something other than his fighter sibling’s younger brother and was the subject of much pressure and manipulation by both his older brother and his mother. Mickey needed to make a name for himself, and therefore the moniker “The Fighter” is wholly appropriate.

This is one film where multiple actors immerse themselves completely into their roles. Christian Bale’s transformation is perhaps the most significant and startling, as the actor once again drops an alarming number of pounds (after “The Machinist” and “Rescue Dawn”) to play Mickey’s crack-addicted brother Dicky. Bale is almost recognizable and entirely convincing as the troubled former fighter trying to regain his glory and his dignity. Melissa Leo also gets marvelously into the character of Alice, Mickey’s primped, trash-talking mother always trying to take charge of her son’s life (look out too for a hilarious gaggle of clones playing her many fiery daughters). Amy Adams sheds any nice girl image she might have had to play the cursing-prone, bar-waitressing Charlene, the girl who sets Mickey straight and has to fight off all the women in his life to do it. Mark Wahlberg’s part isn’t nearly as challenging, but he does a admirable job in the role anyway. The same goes for former “Rescue Me” firefighter Jack McGee as Mickey’s supportive father figure. Overall, the ensemble is in top form and not lacking for anything.

“The Fighter” dives right into story and lets the film explain itself without the aid of cue cards or introductory titles. The filming of an HBO documentary about Dicky is seamlessly incorporated into the film’s narrative and aids the film’s exposition considerably. What’s especially surprising about “The Fighter” is its active sense of humor. Though it has serious moments, there’s an air of levity present throughout the whole thing, and the fantastic performance by Leo and all the actresses playing her over-the-top daughters is a big part of that (and, appropriately, a big part of Mickey’s life). The boxing scenes work tremendously well and complement the rest of the story well. From start to finish, “The Fighter” is equal parts inspiring and exciting, and entirely enjoyable.


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