Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Fighter (Film Review)

This weekend I finally had a chance to see The Fighter, a film that gained a lot of attention during Oscar season earlier this year. Within minutes I knew why: Christian Bale.

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

O.K., Hollywood must like making boxer films because they've produced their share. Six Rocky flicks, Cinderella Man, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, Ali... each with its own twist, and The Fighter is no different in this respect. Like the others, it's the story of an underdog going against all odds to reach the top, in this case Light Welterweight Champion of the World.

The film is based on a true story, which makes me want to pull my punches here a little because the family it's about is still around. I commend them for allowing this story to be told because The Fighter does not put this family in a very good light.

The story is about "Irish" Micky Ward who does succeed in achieving the crown. But it's also a story about Dicky Ecklund, his half brother who once stood toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard and believes he knocked Leonard down. Ecklund is a a completely tragic character. A crackhead living in a dream world, believing he really was a somebody and was going to make Micky a somebody.

Christian Bale is superb in the role, and so unlike the Batman he has played, or the magician. His hyper and gaunt appearance at the opening immediately laces you to your seat for this story. The next surprise is Amy Adams (as Charlene), who caught out attention in Junebug and whom we all fell in love with in her Enchanted innocence. We liked her in Julie and Julia, too. So what a surprise to find such a foul-mouthed Brooklyn barmaid here.

Throw Melissa Leo into the mix as the hysterical overprotective mom who in this story is so lacking in self-awareness.... and you have the main four characters, all at odds with one another as they spar to control Micky's destiny.

The movie has the feel of documentary and then within the film there is a real documentary being made throughout, of Dicky Ecklund's story. The whole time he believes it is a documentary about his own comeback as a fighter. But the real documentary is something much darker, a story about the effects of crack.

Bale deserved the Oscar nomination he received, but all the characters were pitch perfect. I suspect, however, that some of the language in this film will make it unsuitable for many, but it has "real life" written all over it. I was impressed.

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