Today: April 17, 2024
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Fighter, The

To some extent, if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve seen them
all. They’re inevitably defined by one character’s rise from obscurity
and eventual triumph over adversity by demonstrating superhuman
determination and heart. The Fighter is for a large part born in the
same mould and tells the story of working class middleweight boxer
‘Irish’ Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) as he struggles to make the big time
in the rough neighbourhood of Lowell, Massachusetts.

His journey is made all the tougher because his trainer and brother Dickie (Christian Bale),
despite teaching him everything knows, is now a crack addict and barely
manages to turn up to training at all, much less on time. He’s equally
encumbered by his mother and manager Alice (Melissa Leo). She idolises
Dickie and his past sporting glory – Dickie used to be “The Pride Of
Lowell” – he once fought and knocked down boxing legend Sugar Ray
Leonard but she has little interest in getting Micky fights he can win.
After a string of disastrous match ups and losses, Micky is despondent.

Things seem to be looking up when he meets tough-talking waitress Charlene (Amy Adams).
But when the reality starts to dawn that he’d be better off without
his brother and mother looking after his career, the family turn on them
like a pack of angry wolves – to them nothing is more important than
blood.

The Fighter may be a familiar story but it’s significantly lifted by strong performances from all its leads.
Mark Wahlberg is quietly dignified as Micky, seemingly the only oasis
of calm in a raging storm of strong personalities. Amy Adams excels as
Charlene, a strong-willed barmaid with a good left hook of her own, not
afraid to stand up for her man.

Melissa Leo has quietly been forging a career as a woman who
went to not just the School but the University and the PhD Graduate
Programme of Hard Knocks. She was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for
her role of a single mother on the breadline in Frozen River in 2009
and gave a stellar performance in last year’s Winter’s Bone. Here she’s
plays a similar character, a hatchet-faced woman with a cigarette
permanently wedged in the corner of her mouth. As Micky’s mother she’s
indomitable – for her control is everything – she’d rather lead her son
to failure, than see him strike out on his own and succeed.

Special mention has to go to Christian Bale whose relentless dedication to his roles is almost legendary.
He’s no stranger to yo-yoing weight and appearance – from his
frighteningly emaciated turn in The Machinist to the muscular Bruce
Wayne in Batman Begins, from starved POW Dieter Dengler in Rescue Dawn
to beefy magician in The Prestige. Bale has once again pulled out all
the stops and he’s entirely captivating as the sunken-cheeked, frenetic
blabber mouth Dickie Eklund and will most likely take the Oscar for Best
Supporting Actor this year. His bug-eyed mania might seem a bit
overcooked (particularly next to Wahlberg’s understated effort) but he
manages invest Dickie with an infectious likability despite the
character’s myriad flaws.

Despite the predictability of its plot, the boxing scenes are still
breathlessly exciting (and feature that grainy VHS quality footage that
everyone associated with fights televised in the mid-90s) the dialogue
is sharp and, ahem, punchy and it features some great supporting
characters (it’s almost possible to feel the disapproval radiating off
the Ward sisters at times, dodgy haircuts and all). The result is a
film, while tackling subject matter that’s been done a dozen times
before, is completely enthralling and impossible to dislike.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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