Finally saw David O. Russell's The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.
The Fighter tells the true story of Micky Ward, a Boston-Irish boxer whose (half)brother Dicky Edlund was a marginally successful but is now primarily coaching and training his younger brother while unsuccessfully trying to hide his crack addiction from his brother and mother. Micky is played by Mark Wahlberg and Dicky is played by Christian Bale. Their mom (and manager) Alice is played by Melissa Leo and Micky's girlfriend and future wife Charlene (played by Amy Adams).
The Fighter is animated by incendiary performances. The first of these is Bale's transformation from handsome, muscular hero (Batman begins, The Dark Knight) to a gaunt, hyperactive, confused drug addict. It is a harrowing performance to watch. ("Just give him his Oscar now" I whispered to my Other Half on the way out of the theater.) The flip-side of Bale's Dicky is Wahlberg's Micky. Although Wahlberg is the lead actor and presumably the eponymous fighter referred to in the title, Micky's lot in life resembles a follower, not a fighter. He basically does whatever his brother or mother tell him to do, and only slowly does he begin to realize that their wishes may not be parallel to his best interests. Wahlberg's performance is quiet and self-effacing where Bale's is flashy and unforgettable. Leo's Alice and Adams' Charlene are relatively similar in tone and appearance: strong, willful women with rough (and somewhat repellent) exteriors.
Although boxing is a 1-on-1 gladiatorial sport, in The Fighter most of the fighting (or squabbling) is done in threes: Micky and Charlene versus Dicky, Dicky and Alice versus Micky, Micky and Dicky versus the World, and Micky and Charlene versus his entire family. As you can see, many of these fights are between family members and are fraught with the intense emotions that can arise in those situations.
Overall, all boxing movies come into the world in which Rocky and Raging Bull have influenced the audience. The Fighter is a worthy addition to that oeuvre, and with the depiction of family dynamics and the excellence of the acting, the movie should be viewed favorably with the great family dramas (Ordinary People and Dangerous Liaisons).
Title: The Fighter.
Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.
Release Date: Friday, December 10, 2010.
Attendance Date: Thursday, December 30, 2010.
Overall Grade: A- (3.667/4.0).