movie film review | chris tookey


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  Fighter Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
6.97 /10
Micky - Mark Wahlberg , Dicky - Christian Bale
Full Cast >

Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson

Released: 2010
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 114

No knockout but a winner on points.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The Fighter is two movies for the price of one. The first is a real-life Rocky, as lovable lug Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg, pictured left) starts out a dim-witted loser but becomes a champ thanks to his marginally brighter girl-friend – that’s the usually sweet Amy Adams, valiantly playing against type as a foul-mouthed working-class barmaid with tattoos and denim hot pants.

It’s also a shouty, working-class family drama – think EastEnders, with more smoking, gallons of hair lacquer and enough leopard-skin on the women to clothe a tribe of Zulu warriors.

In order for Micky to triumph as an individual in the ring, he first has to take on his spectacularly dysfunctional family outside it - notably seven tough sisters, all seemingly unmarried, jobless and spoiling for a fight, his ferocious manager-mother (Melissa Leo) and his unreliable trainer-brother Dicky (Christian Bale, pictured right).

Of these characters, the most colourful is Dicky, a one-time championship contender who sent Sugar Ray Leonard to the canvas and became a local legend. Unfortunately, failure has gone to his head and he’s become an emaciated, wild-eyed crack-addict who’s not much use to himself, let alone his brother. Dicky’s being followed around by a camera-crew, which he thinks is because he’s planning a comeback – but is really interested in recording the decline and fall of a crack-addict.

Bale steals the movie with a mesmerisingly goofy performance. It could easily be dismissed as a brazen attempt to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, except that we get a glimpse of the real Dicky during the end credits, and he’s just as much of a show-off. Bale has already won a Golden Globe and is rightly favourite to repeat the feat at the Oscars.

I was not quite as impressed by Melissa Leo, who’s been Oscar-nominated for her supporting performance, along with Amy Adams. Leo’s let-it-all-hang-out, domineering matriarch is functional but too much on one note, and not nearly as subtle or nuanced as, say, Helena Bonham-Carter in The King’s Speech.

The biggest weakness, artistically and commercially, is that Micky is one of the least interesting characters. Wahlberg plays him very well and convinces as a professional boxer, but Micky’s so passive and, let’s face it, dumb that you watch everyone else on screen before your attention gets drawn, reluctantly, back to him.

Another flaw is that director David O. Russell isn’t great on action. Compare the fight sequences with Scorsese’s Raging Bull or even John G. Avildsen’s Rocky, and they’re only workmanlike. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) was at one point scheduled to direct, and he would have given the boxing much more visceral impact.

The film convinces most outside the ring, and is commendably unsentimental. These are not nice people, and Russell doesn’t try to pretend that they are. But you do end up rooting for them.

There are no big surprises. We probably didn’t need to be told that being a crackhead is not a great lifestyle choice, or that you need resilience to succeed. But there’s no denying that this movie works as a crowd-pleaser. The shock lies in how hefty a punch so simple a story can still deliver.

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