Firstly, a boxing movie yawns ‘boring’ to me but after this film I have learnt to not knock it till I try it. The Fighter is a touching and dramatic story, based on a real life account; about boxer Micky “Irish” Ward’s (played by Mark Wahlberg) voyage to the world light welterweight title from the suburb of Lowell, Massachusetts.
It takes you on the journey and one of his toughest fights he took with his drug-dependent, criminal of a half-brother Dicky (Christian Bale), a thought to be hero for defeating Sugar Ray Leonard - who is very unreliable - in the blue corner, and mother/manager, Alice (Melissa Leo), a stubborn money-grabbing mother of nine in the red corner. Dicky is an unreliable boxer-turned-trainer who is nearly KO’d by the harsh aspects of working class American life, until he decides to sort himself out and help his brother.
His family is all about his money and fame rather than his success and accomplishment. It is not until he meets former athlete, college dropout barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams) that he regains his will and punch out all the stops to win and to stand up against his domineering family – not to mention his six (or seven?) sisters.
A film full of male testosterone leaves little room for the female roles, in any other typical film but not this one. The women a have remarkable influence in Micky’s journey. From his level headed red head girlfriend (Adams) and his disapproving mother. Leo is fantastic, with her well-crafted ad superbly performance; she deserves every inch of her 2011 academy award. Adams on the other hand, equally as astonishing but on completely different levels. While she plays this cliché “against all odds” character, she has entire control and executes her support for Micky and disregard for his family tremendously.
Although conforming to a Rocky-style template, as it has been compared to, The Fighter is as much a family drama as traditional boxing movie and is all the richer and more entertaining for it, with an ensemble cast of highly memorable characters. Both films do evolve around working class men trying to accomplish a life in boxing, although are better known for taking punishment and beating rather than wining matches. It emphasises on the gritty working class America in the 80’s and 90’s with the pressures to have The American Dream, whatever that dream may be. Then the cliché trials and tribulations, how they end up with an once-in-a-lifetime chance at a title shot and to be fair it wouldn’t be a good character study if there wasn’t good news at the end.
The conventional story of a low-point boxer getting ferocious beatings in the ring to a temporary abandonment of the sport, to then giving it one last try and finally getting somewhere; to get the win they deserve at the end of all the turmoil. This immediately makes the film less interesting but with all the hype I had to see it and am glad I did. Just like in 127 hours, whenever there's a film based on real people, it's practically a law now to show a celebratory photograph of these real people over the closing credits. They are recognisable as the real deal, though obviously not as attractive as the stars playing them. I feel this adds to the real authenticity of the film and realisation that it’s not just a film but was someone’s life story. O. Russell turned it into a riveting, inspirational and absorbingly entertaining film. He combines essences of both emotionally drained and powerfully strong to create a memorable and worthwhile film.
Result: A knockout of pure power and emotion. A triumph for O. Russell.