by Donal O’Hara
Mark Wahlberg has been shopping this film around for the last 5 years trying to get it made and whilst it may not be anything new, it is at least good. The film sounds as formulaic as they come, but the true-life story of down-and-out boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is elevated by some smashing performances and great direction.
The film is directed by David O. Russell and he does a great job. The film is very well put together and it’s not mere luck that all the performances in the film are very good. Christian Bale is the stand out as he transforms himself into Dicky Eklund, Micky Ward’s older brother and trainer. He really does look like a crackhead, and perfectly captures the swagger of an overconfident brother trading on one moment of past glory. Wahlberg is also good as Micky and he’s clearly put the hours in training, although he has boxed before. The female performances are just as enthralling. Melissa Leo plays Micky’s mum, and is delightfully horrible, as are his gaggle of sisters; all well acted and clearly the spawn of the white trash queen bee. I think special mention should be reserved for Amy Adams. It isn’t the best performance in the film but with her squeaky-clean persona it’s great to see her playing someone with some dirt under her nails.
Unexpectedly The Fighter is also very funny. Whilst one might have expected this given Russell’s previous work, it was nice to see the film not taking itself too seriously. There are some very powerful scenes though, and the levity that surrounds them helps to drive home their emotional impact. It’s worth noting that Russell also manages to make the boxing in the film emotional, as we get anxious and excited – he makes us feel the weight of a town’s hopes and dreams on Micky’s shoulders.
There are a couple of scenes that aren’t quite note perfect, and it felt a little unfinished, although it’s also a compliment to say I would have happily watched another 20 minutes.
Ignore the crappy trailer and give The Fighter a watch, it’s not quite a knockout – maybe an 8 count.