The Fighter

The Fighter

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Based on the true story of "Irish" Micky Ward - a welterweight whose dream was to follow in his older brother Dicky's footsteps - The Fighter may be the latest in a long line of films that step into the ring, but it's the more closet and bruising pugilism Micky faces on the home front which holds the attention.

Mark Wahlberg stars as the quiet, retiring Micky, a man who seems about as happy being the spotlight as Mohamed Ali would be being on the losing end of a punch. He is the polar opposite of his older brother Dicky - who is something of a local celebrity in their home town of Lowell, Massachussets, thanks to once putting Sugar Ray Leonard on the floor... although many believe Dicky's opponent simply lost his footing. Long-since out of the ring himself, Dicky now spends his time coaching younger brother Micky, or at least the portion of time he can spare when he isn't getting off his face in the local crack den or bar.


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If that isn't enough for Micky to contend with, he is also saddled with a harridan of a mother, who thinks he is going places thanks to her feather-spitting management style. Of course, in reality, his career is on the ropes and he is unable to shake himself loose from either member of his family - until a blossoming romance feisty barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams) suggests there might be someone in his corner who cares after all.

The joy of The Fighter is in the performances. Christian Bale - reduced lately to whispering solemnity in the likes of Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation - gets to really cut loose with Dicky in a performance that is sure to give Geoffrey Rush a run for his money on Oscar night. He's a twitchy monster of a man, yet Bale manages to make his actions believable and surprisingly sympathetic. Melissa Leo, as Micky's mother Alice, also keeps her character's trashy ridiculousness on the right side of caricature and is ably supported by a 'chorus' of Micky's sisters, each as overbearing as their mother. Sitting between them, Wahlberg's performance is somewhat overshadowed, but he nevertheless does a considerable amount with his less pyrotechnic character.

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Considering the scripting is sharp and taut, with plenty of humour laced in with the grit, it's a shame that David O Russell's film is let down somewhat by its forays into the actual boxing ring. Where the action on the family front never pulls its punches and almost always draws blood, each of Micky's fight nights seem oddly muted and tame by comparison. Those looking for cut and thrust on canvas would be better turning to Raging Bull or The Wrestler, but if it's a family bout you're looking for, this one's a winner.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2011
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The Fighter packshot
True story of a welterwight boxer's bid for fame.
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Director: David O Russell

Writer: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O'Keefe, Jack McGee, Melissa McMeekin, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Jill Quigg, Dendrie Taylor, Kate B. O'Brien, Jenna Lamia, Frank Renzulli, Paul Campbell

Year: 2010

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Rocky
The Wrestler