The Fighter (2010, dir. David O. Russell)
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams
What is interesting about David O. Russell’s current film, The Fighter, is how the way the story is told parallels the situation our lead, Micky Ward (Wahlberg) finds himself in. He is the younger half-brother of Dicky Eklund (Bale), a former big time boxer whose career fell apart after he became addicted to heroin. The opening scene of the film is about Dicky’s pomposity and grandiose nature overshining Micky. This is the situation Micky finds himself in consistently. Despite Dicky’s failings as a son and a father, everyone seems to love him and give him an infinite number of chances. Even Micky’s boxing career seems to be one big stepping stone in Dicky’s comeback. While The Fighter treads into dark territory it still comes off as the feel good movie of the year, in an honest way with its audience.
Dicky’s situation as a former champion turned addict has attracted the attention of HBO documentarians. Dicky is under the impression the story is his comeback, but the film’s audience can tell that this is a delusion and the story the filmmakers are after is his failure. Micky is training for a series of fights that the boys’ manager and mother, Alice (Leo) believes will eventually open doors for Dicky. Into the very controlling midst of Alice comes Charlene (Adams) who begins a relationship with Micky and helps him see that his family isn’t looking out for his best interest. Clashes occur between Micky and his family until all the parties involved must finally realize the truth about themselves.
This is probably Russell’s most commercial film but it still keeps away from losing too much of his touch. The only major flaw in the film is how weak Wahlberg’s performance. Its partly because he just isn’t that dynamic of an actor and because Christian Bale is a phenomenal actor. Bale really becomes Dicky Eklund, he even delivers a better Boston accent than Ben Affleck in last year’s The Town. Bale is so much more interesting to watch than Wahlberg. The scene where Dicky sits back as his prison buddies watch the finished documentary, assured that it will prove him a champion, and then he deflates as he sees the truth is heartbreaking. There’s also a touching moment at the end, when Dicky finally admits that his time is over and talks about how proud he is to see his brother shine. It’s definitely the best film I have seen this year so far and is another piece of evidence to support the genius of Bale.