At a glance:
Richly textured (with four Oscar-worthy performances), The Fighter is more about dysfunction and less about boxing
Our review (with spoilers):
When a story is common and its circumstances are widespread and shared, it can sometimes feel clichéd. So it is with The Fighter, a film that is more about a dysfunctional family and less about boxing. One family member - here it is boxer Micky Eklund (Mark Wahlberg) - has the talent and the salary, and the rest are hangers-on who scramble to keep their hold on the cash cow, using blood relations and guilt where necessary. Micky has always been tutored, trained, and managed by his older brother Dick (Christian Bale), who once was a boxer of some talent. The highlight of his career was knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard (before eventually losing the fight). Micky’s mom Alice (Melissa Leo) also co-manages, but Micky’s career is dove-tailing, due to bad match-ups. It doesn’t help that Micky has to get his older brother out of fights and drug-related legal jams either. I don’t think the film is clichéd – it is more that the situation is common, but it is told with directorial flair by a perfectly chosen cast.
Christian Bale inhabits his characters, and he’s on top of his game as the crack-smoking older brother. The real Dicky Eklund appears briefly at the end of the film; you can see that Bale would have studied Dicky’s mannerisms to create his own spin on the character. Melissa Leo is excellent again (and almost unrecognizable) as Alice, the dominant mother of ten children. Bale and Leo each bring a very similar energy to their roles. They do not seem to be acting – just living. Each of them won Best Supporting Oscars, and Amy Adams, who is oh so sweet-with-an-edge, was also nominated. Mark Wahlberg is quiet and solid in the lead, surrounding by these tornadoes of passion.
Rating: 3.5 of 4
Other reviewers said:
"The ring action in The Fighter is bruising enough, but it's the drama outside the ropes that will leave you reeling."
- Jason Best (Movie Talk)