The Fighter is the cinematic reconstruction of the true story of boxer Micky Ward, played here by Mark Wahlberg in his third collaboration with director David O’Russel. Its not so much a story about his rise to become the title holder as much as it is the story of his rise through the ranks of his families infrastructure, where he walks in his half brothers shadow whilst his career is held hostage by his mothers controlling management.
His brother Dicky Eklund, played by Christian Bale in an Oscar winning role, was also a boxer who took the title from Sugar Ray Leonard and has been his mothers pride and joy ever since. When we meet him in the movie he has taken the role of Micky’s trainer, on his mothers insistence, a role that he hardly ever shows up for on account of his crack addiction. Micky’s mentor the policeman Micky O’Keefe (played by himself in the movie) takes Dicky’s place to train the young fighter whenever Dicky is absent.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the fact that it was true made it all the more entertaining. The transition between Micky’s story and that of Dicky’s was – to revive an old cliché – a rollercoaster ride, combining tension and action with comedy and heart wrenching moments of family strife with moments of joy and unity as we see Micky and his family struggle through their own misconceptions of their families solidarity, sometimes denying, and sometimes having to face up to the stark truths. We are almost thrust into the mothers belief in her eldest sons revival as she flaunts his family album to the documentary film crew, but we soon see this is a façade that both she and Dicky struggle to come to terms with.
The movie was nominated for seven Oscars, and won two, both for supporting roles, one of which was Bale’s portrayal as the cock sure crack addict Dicky.
Christian Bale was good in the role, great even, but to me, I don’t think he was worthy of the award. To me, when I watched the opening scene, and he talked over and spoke for Wahlberg, yes, he got the character across, and the main theme of the movie in a sense, but he also seemed to me to be over acting. As the film went on, I did warm to his performance, it struck the right chords in that his overbearing personality was claustrophobic to Wahlberg, but I don’t think that was too much of a stretch for Bale to play someone so arrogant. Having since seen footage of the real Dicky Ekland, I admit the performance was very close, but an award winning performance? I just don’t get it.
People say he is the next DeNiro, taking extreme lengths to become the characters he plays, but as far as I can see, he chooses roles that make him look double hard, roles that accentuate his own action hero perception of himself. Ok, lest we not forget how for his role in the Machinist he became extremely skinny, and how for his interpretation of Bruce Wayne he became extremely muscular, or how for his character in Empire Of The Sun he became extremely young, – I jest of course – but at least DeNiro wasn’t afraid to play a retard or even a ginger. He wasn’t too worried about his credibility, unlike the egotistical Bale.
The other Oscar winner was Melissia Leo who played the mother, Alice Ward, a hardened bitch with an eye for money and a voice to be heard. As ruler of her roost, and with the backing of several frightening daughters, she is a force to be reckoned with. I do believe she was good too, but it seems to be easy to play a bitch when its all there for you. Was she worthy of the Oscar? Again I’m not so sure, but I do know that she, like Bale, had no problem provoking the right amount of hateful emotions from the audience, especially against Wahlbergs timid Mickey and the kind faced father played by Jack McGee.
To me the Oscar should have gone to the cinematography, and the genius stroke of using the actual HBO camera’s for the documentary and TV cameras for the fight scenes, which gave a beautiful and realistic finish to the look of the film. Also the movies editing which was cut at a great pace, superbly accentuating shots of Bale repeatedly escaping his crack den via a skip, and the blood spraying in the ring, and other perfect moments of cinema. Perhaps even the girlfriend role, played by Amy Adams, was worthy of an Oscar. She brought to life a girl who we could believe was unflinching when standing beside her man in the face of the scary women of his family, showing a determined strength despite her slender figure.
I felt that some of the symbology was a little obvious, a little too convenient, especially with the cake on Bale’s arm depicting his rejection of his crack addiction and his druggy friends that were holding him back. When Adams is in a row with him over who’s really got his brothers back, she see’s the icing and all is fine, like we’re supposed to believe that she realised the greater importance of having cake mix on his arm. Ridiculous.
For some this movie may not have enough fighting in it, we’re not watching Rocky 3 here remember, but for me it had just about the right mix of fight and story. I tend to bore easily of extravagant and over long action and fight sequences, but as I mentioned, here they were brief and thrilling, stylish and gripping, but I know a couple of my friends didn’t enjoy it so much on account of the fights being few and far between. Also the soundtrack and the sound effects used were awesome and helped provoke a real sense of aggression and violence.