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Review: The Fighter

PUBLISHED: 14:06 19 February 2011 | UPDATED: 14:06 19 February 2011

© 2010 Fighter, LLC. All Rights Reserved

The Fighter is just as abrupt and basic as its title. This is a boxing movie and boxing movies tend to stick to one storyline which the Boy Done Good, unless they are post career boxing movies which tend to go with 'the Boy Done Good But Couldn't Handle It'.

The Fighter is just as abrupt and basic as its title. This is a boxing movie and boxing movies tend to stick to one storyline which the Boy Done Good, unless they are post career boxing movies which tend to go with ‘the Boy Done Good But Couldn’t Handle It’. In telling the true story of Irish Mickey Ward, the fighter gets to do both.

Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a jobbing light welterweight boxer who lives in the shadow of his elder half brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale) who once managed to knock down Sugar Ray leonard.

Ward has promise but his career is going nowhere because he’s being held back by his family. his fearsome mother (Melissa Leo) is his manager and picks the wrong fights for him and Dickie is a crackhead who doesn’t always turn up for training.

A good underdog story always goes over well in a sports drama and this has a cracker with the miss match of intense method man Bale against buffed up, whiney voiced, turn-up-and-say-the-words Wahlberg.

That crack is lethal addictive stuff and getting an actor as faddy as Bale to play a user was never going to end prettily. Wahlberg, meanwhile, looks and sounds the same as he does in every movie.

Yet if I had to call it, I’d give it to Wahlberg.

Bale gives you a performance but that’s all he gives you. It is an immaculate performance but there’s nothing there to engage you. Wahlberg does the basics: makes you care about his character, gets you to invest emotionally in the film.

The title makes you think of the wrestler and that’s a fine comparison.

Just as The Wrestler functioned as a way for a faltering visionary director, in that case Darren Aronofsky to win back a bit of credibility after a career setback, The Fighter is a shot at mainstream redemption for Russell.

The Fighter (15)

Director: David O. Russell

With: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee and Mickey O’Keefe

Length: 114 mins

***

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