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Star - Mark Wahlberg & Christian Bale
Run-Time - 116 minutes
Genre - True story sports drama
Country - USA
Certificate - 15
The standard of Oscar winners goes down every year for me, the big studios sharing out the spoils as if operating like a cartel, judging by some of the surprise but big budget winners of late, The Academy seemingly subservient to this, The Fighter an example of, earning an astonishing seven nominations, almost as overrated as The Hurt Locker the previous year, earning similar plaudits, a cheesy and cliché war film at best, as is this in the boxing genre.
Although this didn't win Best Film or Screenplay, the twin Oscar victories for Best Supporting Actress and Actor for Melissa Leo and Christian Bale respectively feels premeditated to me as their performances are nothing out of the ordinary. Don't get me wrong, Bale is a great screen actor and one of my favorites but his performance here is just ok and nothing more. Melissa Leo getting a gong for a bog-standard matriarch role also very odd. It was almost as if Hollywood had to put something up against the King Speech as they knew the Brits would sweep the board and so tried to gather the patriotic home-grown vote with something populist, America V verses Britain if you like. Hollywood seemed determined this rather bland boxing film would be their best chance to pick up loyal votes.
The film is based on the true story of Boston welterweight fighter 'Irish' Mickey Ward, who would eventually go on to fight for a world title after overcoming a tough upbringing and family problems. But the problem there is do we really need another boxing movie as we have already scene the definitive work, Rocky and Raging Bull outstanding pieces of iconic cinema and so job done, Stallone and Scorsese shamelessly ignored for best actor and director respectively back then, and that really my point on the modern day political Hollywood and why so-so like this still wins awards.
Mark Wahlberg ... Micky Ward
Christian Bale ... Dicky Eklund
Amy Adams ... Charlene Fleming
Melissa Leo ... Alice Ward
Mickey O'Keefe ... Mickey O'Keefe
Jack McGee ... George Ward
Melissa McMeekin ... 'Little Alice' Eklund
Bianca Hunter ... Cathy 'Pork' Eklund
Erica McDermott ... Cindy 'Tar' Eklund
Jill Quigg ... Donna Eklund Jaynes
Dendrie Taylor ... Gail 'Red Dog' Eklund
Kate B. O'Brien ... Phyllis 'Beaver' Eklund
'Irish' Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is the little brother to local hero Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a Boston born and bred boxing champions who's claim to fame was knocking Sugar Ray Leonard down to go close to winning a World Title back in the early 80s, Henry Copper style, but now a heroine addict and Mickey's trainer, his career falling away soon after.
For Dickie he is newsworthy once again as a local TV crew are making a film about his addiction and that fall from grace, grabbing the chance with both gloves to be in the limelight once again. But Mickey the boxing prospect now but very much under the thumb of his mother Alice (Melissa Leo), who is also his manager and promoter, very much a family business. But his fights are often mismatches to suit family finances, Mum a good Catholic as far as contraception goes and so another seven daughters by two different fathers to support from Mickey's purses, and when he gets beat up by a stand-in some twenty pounds heavier, Mickey decides to weigh up an offer from a Vegas promoter to move out to the desert to get that eventual title shot under him and not her, a tough decision.
Alice thinks his apathy towards her and Dicky is coming from his new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) and when Dickie is jailed for fighting and hitting a policeman the family eventually turn against Mickey as he trains with another local Jim, the family losing their only source of income. The question now is can Mickey get that title fight without them and will he be able to box clever without his beloved brother by his side for the big eliminator fight against Irelands Shea Neary.
The main problem with this is who the hell is Irish Mickey Ward and why should we care about him in a true story context, even though he is played by the likeable Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg has become rather stereotyped as the loveable dumb lug of late and puts in a lazy performance here. The Hurricane with the charismatic Denzel Washington is another true story about boxing but he makes you want to care for the character, why it is far more engaging and interesting boxing film, and probably the third best boxing movie ever made outside of the Rocky franchise. But what on earth is original about yet another rags-to-riches story involving a boxer from the ghetto making good? All boxers come from the ghetto and so the ones who win belts have that same journey, right? I'm sure the tale may resonate more with Americans as they are more familiar with the story of Ward but to me there is nothing new here and the whole thing predictable and surprisingly heartless, the Irish American attempt at Rocky that falls flat.
As I said before, Wahlberg's performances is very two dimensional here and you can't make out if he is playing a 'punchy' boxer or simply forgetting his lines. Bale, as magnetic as ever, does his unstable skinny bloke thing again and steels the show, managing to look much older than Bale in the film even though he is three years younger than Wahlberg, but still can't lift the film this into Oscar territory, .whilst the beautiful Amy Adams is completely wasted as the brassy local barmaid. By all-accounts the cast loved the script and wanted the roles badly, Wahlberg agreeing to wave his upfront fee to get the Ward role and Bale taking the superstars minimum of $250,000 for the role. But why?
I don't think director David O Russell does the best he can with the material either and even though the cast give it a go you don't feel the story is chunky or romantic enough to be made into a movie the punters would care about. But, even though the punters have seen it all before, they ramped up its ratings on the IMDB, a very rare score of 8/10, especially for a sports movie.
The biggest disappointment here is you just don't end up rooting for Ward in the final big fight showdown like you did Rocky, Wahlberg not looking like a fighter out there, critical to these boxing movies working and the punter punching the air with him on the bell. There are moments of humour and authentic Irish charm but with an iffy modern soundtrack for the era it's supposed to be set in it never really feels right and so never edges above perfunctory sports biopic. Wahlberg is way better in his other sports movie called Invincible and that the one you should watch. This film is why Marty Scorsese is the boss. But with its $25 million budget and Oscar buzz it did good business, making $100 million plus to date through multiplex and DVD release.
= = = Special Features = = =
~ Audio Commentary ~
David O Russell talks about his movie.
~ The Warriors Code: The Making of 'The Fighter' ~
Your standard backslapping stuff from cast & crew.
~ Keeping the Faith ~
Mildly interesting as we get to meet the real Ward and his brother and what they think of the film.
~Deleted and Extended scenes ~
= = = The Critics = = =
The Guardian - "The Fighter looks at first as if it is going to be a far more interesting movie than the straightforward and even rather undemanding drama we finally get".
The Sun "- A rickety, unfocused contraption of a film that sputters and chugs along without offering any hint of why its director thought it was worth making.
The Los Angles Time - "Christian Bale - reduced lately to whispering solemnity in the likes of Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation - gets to really cut loose with Dicky in a performance that is sure to give Geoffrey Rush a run for his money on Oscar night".
Film4 - "Predictable, but solid enough"
Imdb.com - 8.0/10.0 (76,741 votes)
Metacritic.com - 79% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 91% critic's approval rating
"The Fighter" is a 2010 American sports drama directed by David O Russell and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, and is based upon the true story of professional boxer Micky Ward.
Micky Ward ( Mark Wahlberg ) is an Irish-American professional boxer from a working class family in Lowell, Massachusetts, he is managed by his mother Alice ( Melissa Leo ) and trained by his older half brother Dicky Eklund ( Christian Bale ), who is a washed up former boxer himself who is addicted to drugs and who's only claim to fame is an alleged knock down of Sugar Ray Leonard during a televised HBO fight.
Micky is a stepping stone boxer, who is used by other boxers to defeat on their way up the ladder, Dicky meanwhile is being filmed by HBO for a documentary he believes to be about his "Comeback" ( actually its a documentary about addiction )
Micky is scheduled to fight in an undercard in Atlantic City, however before the fight his opponent falls ill and an opponent is found, however the opponent is 18 pounds heavier than Micky, apprehensive he agrees to the fight after his mother and brother encourage him to take it, so they can get the purse, Micky is easily defeated and embarrassed, he decides to retreat and take a step back from the fight game and ends up forming a relationship with Charlene Fleming ( Amy Adams ), who's a former athlete herself and now tends bar.
After a while Micky receives an offer to train in Vegas, however he must stop using his brother as his trainer, meanwhile Dicky is getting worse and worse and his addiction is spiralling out of control, culminating in a spell in jail.
And so Micky must juggle his professional life, along with his relationships around him, all the while trying to get that one big break that he needs for his career.
I had heard great things about The Fighter after it won two academy awards ( for best supporting actress and best supporting actor ) and wasn't disappointed.
We have seen many many sports movies about a character being the underdog, fighting against adversity and hopefully coming out of it at the end victorious ( there has been many, but none can ever live up to Rocky ), and this had all the hallmarks of the same kind of formula, and while it does follow that pattern to a certain extent, this movie is all about the story and the acting job done by all involved.
The performances by all involved have to be admired, but particularly the performance by Christian Bale as Dicky deserved its best supporting oscar, he is utterly convincing as the drug addicted former prize fighter, and you get absorbed into his performance, however once you get to the end of the movie and you actually see real interview footage of the real Micky and Dicky you realise he had the mannerisms and the character of Dicky down to a tee
David O Russel masterfully crafts a gritty storyline and cinematography together to form something special, my only complaint would be that it is slightly predictable and by the end you kind of know whats coming, however it can be excused as it is based upon true events, but if you can look past the predictability angle you'll really find yourself in for a treat.
The Fighter is a true story based on the American boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg). The film focuses on Dicky Ecklund Jnr (Christian Bale) a former contender whose claim to fame was that he once knocked down the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard in a 1978 title fight before eventually losing to him and his half brother Micky 'Irish' Ward (Mark Wahlberg). In 2006 Dicky is a washed out crack addict but pushed by his brash mother and his own ego is considering a comeback and believes he has been chosen by HBO to be the star of a documentary about this, the documentary actually charts his crack addiction.
Micky is ten years Dicky's junior and is working as a road sweeper and fighting in his spare time, trained by his half brother and a local policeman, Mickey O'Keefe (Surprisingly played by himself). Dicky's addiction and his unreliable ways lead both Micky and Mickey to suggest he perhaps shouldn't be training the kid as he is washed out and wasted more often than not.
Both brothers are managed by their domineering mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) who is more interested in her role in things than supporting her son.
Ward is a 'stepping stone' fighter, a guy used by promoters to build up and coming fighters as an easy knock out, and isn't considered worthy of anything more but he has dreams of emulating his drug addled brother/trainer and becoming a true contender, the story follows the true story of a a warrior who fight fans know never laked an ounce of heart in the ring and was in many ways a real life 'Rocky'.
As Micky considers whether family or success are his priority, Dicky has to assess his own life, both as role models for their children, whilst Alice has to contemplate her role as the mother of these two boys rather than simply hiding behind the 'Manager' monicker.
This is probably the strongest part of this story, the cast is exceptional and was rightly lauded at awards ceremonies, Bale showboats his way through the film, playing the unbalanced Dicky perfectly, walking the fine line between failed contender and a man who still feels his destiny is unfilled, however his drug addiction takes him into territory which Bale absolutely excels at, the world of the screw-up.
He portrays Dicky perfectly, he is up one minute, down the next, obsessed with his knock-down of Sugar Ray Leonard and absolutely loving his celebrity status in his small home town, he dominates the screen but doesn't come across as sympathetic in any sense until the final third of the film, but you will understand why. Bale puts a lot of himself into his roles and he has lost a lot of weight for this part, I found elements where he spoke about addiction in the documentary within the film very moving and a great testament to his acting ability, I also found his attempts to learn from his own behaviour inspiring and realistic, his Oscar is well deserved in a complex and at times unlikeable role.
Melissa Leo won a best supporting actress role for the part of the mother of 7 daughters and 2 sons who seeks to manage both her sons boxing careers. Her performance is excellent, but horrible, she is a pain, treating both her sons as parts in her own story, she is selfish, arrogant and determined to give her golden boy Dicky a second chance, ignoring her other son in the process.
The scenes in her smoke filled home with her 7 hideously couiffeured daughters are like something out of an advert for trailer parks, she isn't in it as much during the second half of the film and in many ways I was glad as for all her kind words about family, she seems more determined that her son mess things up with her as Manager than do well without her, the first half plays out as the Alice and Dicky show and you feel sorry for the main character Micky who simply struggles to get a word in.
Mark Wahlberg as Micky is excellent, his part has been undervalued by critics in my eyes, he acts without saying too much, as everyone else mouths off and pushes their own dreams and ambitions around him. His character follows his dreams and he quietly but bravely shows that by standing up to his family he has the balls to achieve much more in his boxing career.
Wahlberg put a lot into the part physically, he looks like a boxer, while he brings an understated touch of class to proceedings as a man who realises that your heroes will always let you down and you have to make your own dreams come true. He is the perfect counterpoint to the over the top characters around him and towards the end you want to cheer when he teaches his brother a brutal lesson and shuts his sibling and mother up in one foul swoop, a man of few words but strong principles. Wahlberg produced the film and must have felt much like the main character as the support actors got all the plaudits and awards while his solid and understated performance allowed those around him to excel.
Amy Adams is excellent as Charlene, the girl Micky falls for in a bar, who attended college but dropped out, she stands up to Alice and her ridiculous daughters and fights for her man, she pushes him to understand that he has one shot at succeeding and won't achieve it with his family telling him what to do......so she does instead!
She is sassy, smart and a very likeable influence on Micky, as in many boxing films, she is the rock to that gives her man the power and desire to achieve his dreams.
Solid support is provided by Jack McGee as George the derided father of Micky who only wants the best for his boy and Mickey O'Keefe, playing himself as Mickey's part-time trainer and a full time cop, he is actually very good and looks more like an actor than a boxing trainer.
Overall the cast are excellent and build this story up, as initially an achingly painful look at a dysfunctional family and finally a story of redemption.
Credit has to go to the actresses playing Alice's daughters, they are horrific and look like really depraved extras from the Jerry Springer show, they don't appear to be acting at all and give the film even more of a realistic feel than it already has.
I have to admit I hated the first half of this film, but it is absolutely essential to build the story to its climax. I hated it because the characters of Dicky and Alice felt so absorbed with Dicky that I felt sorry for Micky Ward, the main character, their selfishness and ability to see everything as an opportunity for Dicky overwhelm our hero and his problems clearly stem from family issues, but the second half of the film addresses these fully and doesn't dodge any punches in showing the characters for what they are. But people who are initially unlikeable develop sides which are likeable and you can understand why Micky might ever have hero worshipped his fallen brother.
I have discussed the acting which is excellent, well the visuals match the acting. The shots of the town where the family live are mind-numbingly dull and boring, but sum up small town life, the shots of the crack den show a broken band of freaks and losers beyond hope, the people in the town all know each other and aren't afraid to share opinions both positive and negative.
The characters aren't shot in their best light they are shot in a tinged early nineties style, but director David O Russell does throw in stylish shots at times, when Alice is on the phone to HBO, her feckless daughters are shown out of focus while her cigarette smoke is the main focus of the shot, this sums up the seedier side of the lower end of boxing promotion perfectly.
Speaking of Boxing, I felt the boxing shots were excellent, the fights were presented in the style of an HBO show and they looked authentic to that era, Wahlberg and his foes fight in a fairly realistic style, not too many sandbag noises, just lots of body shots, lots of misses and more realism than the 300 punches per minute of films like Rocky 3.
I found the film very gritty and honest, the camera work really adds to this, visually it reminded me of Darren Aronofsky's 'The Wrestler' paying homage to a small town hero and an era, it was executive produced by the great man so quite possibly that may have had something to do with it, although Russell is an original and bright talent and definitely stamps his own personality on this film with a sharp script, excellent story development and a cast who absolutely light up the screen.
The film also reminded me a little of the Sandra Bullock led 'The Blind Side' in the way it mixes real characters in the story with the actors, it works better here than in the former film as I didn't even realise that some of the characters were playing themselves until afterwards. The film is very natural and seems very realistic, helped by the fact I only knew of Adams, Bale and Wahlberg prior to this film.
This film demands your attention, it is a family drama as much as it is a sports film, the main character is hardly ever the main focus of the film, I felt Christian Bale's final shot in the film summed his character up perfectly, you have to watch it, but it was an excellent finish to the film.
Having watched Micky Ward in his three fights with Arturo Gatti and absolutely appreciated what a talented fighter and warrior he was, I did think the story underplayed his talent, he 'luckily' gets his title shot, but he was a golden gloves champion and really highly rated in the times before this story was set, but this film does almost imply that he perhaps wasn't, which is a shame.
At the end credits we see the real Micky Ward and his brother sat in a bar chatting, this sums up the electric energy of Dicky who Bale appears to have got spot on, down to his overexcitable desire to buddy up to everyone and the quieter yet commanding energy of Micky, I think Wahlberg will always be underrated for this film, but the moment when he achieves something and hears the comparison to his brother is exceptional, his eye movements say more than some actors can express in 20 minutes of ridiculous overacting.
This film reminds me of Raging Bull, it is dark, honest and really gets to the bare bones of boxing, but I think it is a more hopeful story and ultimately more rewarding and a film that will age really well.
This is a raw and demanding film that never overcomplicates things but does portray a complex family relationship where almost everyone is seeking some kind of attention. The direction, acting and story are excellent and it deserved all of the accolades without a doubt.
If this film were:
A Boxer it would be - 'Irish' Micky Ward - Plucky, never knows when it is beaten and a lot more complex than it looks.
An animal it would be - A Hippo - Powerful, has a slightly smelly feel to it and has lots of parasites (The 7 ugly sisters) eating from it.
A band it would be - Chumbawumba - It gets knocked down, but it gets up again............
The DVD is available from Amazon for £5.99 and is well worth it.
*Film Only Review*
Based on a true story 'The Fighter' captures our hearts as the story of welterweight boxer 'Micky 'Irish' Ward unfolds and displays his battles not just in a boxing ring, but in his personal life also. Although there have been a few fantastic movie releases in the past two years, this ranks as one of my personal favourites.
In Lowell, Massachusetts Micky (Mark Wahlberg) is trained by former boxer and half brother Dicky. (Christian Bale) Now a known crack addict, Dicky was previously the pride of the community having gone toe to toe with boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and flooring him. (Although some say Leonard fell)
Used mainly as a stepping stone for other boxers to excel in the industry, Micky continues to lose fights and confidence due to poor management by his money-hungry mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and inconsistent training by the unreliable Dicky-who consistently fails to arrive on time to train his brother, if at all.
A fight is then organised to be held in Las Vegas, so all the family venture there only to be told that Micky's opponent has the flu. It's here his mother and brother prove again to be all about the money instead of Micky's welfare as they push him to fight another opponent, who has almost twenty pounds on him and he does predictably give him a beating in the ring.
It is after he returns home from Vegas Micky begins to question the motives of his family. With added encouragement to stand up to them from his new love interest Charlene (Amy Adams) a feisty and foul-mouthed barmaid, Micky then has to decide whether his career will be better off without their involvement. The family take an instant dislike to Charlene, Alice in particular who strongly believes all business should be kept within the family. Once they begin to lose grip of the reigns controlling Micky's career Alice and Micky's seven sisters' blame Charlene and storm round to her house where both Micky and Charlene are at that moment and a fight breaks out among them all.
It's here the movie really kicks into full swing as we see Micky fight for his own recognition as a talented boxer and strive to keep all those that he loves together and behind him. The troublesome Dicky and the rest of his family are then forced to open their eyes on who Dicky has really become since his boxing career ended after an event brutally magnifies his addiction.
Although the Golden Globe winners were Christian Bale and Melissa Leo for their supporting roles, the other outstanding performers alongside them won the Best Acting Ensemble award from the Critics Choice Movie Awards. I didn't think there was a single cast member who didn't shine in their role even though one of them was not an actor! Policeman Mickey O'Keefe played himself after being convinced by Mark Wahlberg.
Bale's portrayal of the real life 'Dicky' was so on point and is proved to be when you see footage of the real brothers at the end of the film. It's clear he studied this man extensively and he physically transformed his body into a thin and awkward state of that of a crack addict. His mannerisms and quirky, child-like attitude sucked you into really believing this character was real. The scenes in the movie when Dicky is being filmed in a crack house are so brutal and intense you almost feel sorry for him when he truly believes he's being filmed due to a planned 'comeback.' Bale was incredibly convincing.
Wahlberg's role as Micky was totally unappreciated. The character may have been the least interesting compared with the others but you still undoubtedly wanted him to succeed... and maybe throttle his family!
The character of Micky remained torn between doing what was best for him and wanting to remain loyal to his family. He remained a truly nice guy throughout and I think this is maybe why Wahlberg's performance was so under-rated and went sometimes un-noticed. The other characters had such large, up and down personalities that you found yourself changing your opinions on them often. This of course would grip your imagination and attention more than Micky's repetitive 'I just wanna win a fight and get trained properly' and laid-back attitude. But that was exactly how Micky Ward was.
I do think Wahlbergs performance as Micky was solid; he trained many years to capture the physique and personality of the character and was so determined for the movie to be shown he pushed for years to get it made. Had any other of the characters been toned down you would have seen him really shine.
It was good to see Adam's excel in the more gritty character Charlene, rather than the usual softer roles she had previously played and it was a flawless performance along with Leo's rendition of Alice.
Actor Jack McGee who played George Ward, the boys' father, also did a wonderful job; the character was more low key and saw him overshadowed constantly by Alice whose opinion in the relationship and towards their kids was more important than his own. George would have been the peace-keeper among the family if he had had the courage more of the time to speak up when he disapproved of a situation. He appeared the only one, other than Charlene, to feel Micky needed to be heard within the family more. There is a side-splitting scene when George has a run in with Dicky. The father finally loses his temper with the unreliable drug addict and as he bolts around a corner 'like a silver backed gorilla' (Micky's words) he grabs Dicky down from a fence and they have a scuffle. Among the few laugh out loud moments, this was really one of my favourites.
The on screen chemistry is great between all characters but the relationship of the two boxing siblings clearly takes centre stage, just as it is intended to do.
Director David O.Russell delivers an emotional drama. The boxing doesn't take centre stage throughout, but when the fighting is on screen it is delivered as realistic as a real boxing match shown on live TV is with the commentary.
I know the film 'Rocky' has the same boxing nature but 'The Fighter' is incomparable with 'Rocky' and I wonder why people continue to compare the two. I would say this film is more along the lines of 'Raging Bull' with its gallant approach and unlikeable characters and 'Million Dollar Baby' with its ability to stir deep emotion within viewers.
The soundtrack within the movie was enjoyable, one song in particular stood out to me during a key scene when you see the two brothers training separately and that was the 'Red Hot Chilli Peppers' song 'Strip my mind'.
'The Fighter' has the run time of 116 minutes and is rated R in the U.S.A and 15 in the U.K. It does contain foul language and some intimate scenes but no full on sex.
Overall I really enjoyed this movie and would recommend it to all, except youngsters. It is quite intense and therefore not a film to be seen if you are after a light and easy watch.
I'd seen the trailers for this film a few times, and since the boyfriend has an interest in fighting, it was a must-see for him. So, unusually for us, we went to see this film on a Saturday at the cinema. I can see us seeing it again several times in future.
Micky Ward is a boxer hoping to make something of his career and future, but it seems that his family are holding him back . His half-brother Dicky is meant to be training him, but he always shows up late and seems more preoccupied with a coke habit that has messed up his own life. His mother Alice Ward is determined that Micky's career remain under her control and within the family, and so she is his manager and does everything she can to push away other people that want to help or be involved. The trouble is, he keeps getting fixed up in fights that are out of his league and leave him taking an unnecessarily severe beating. Then Micky meets Charlene, a tough woman who tells it how it is, and pushes him to break away from the clasps of his family and start getting good fights and better training. Inevitably, Micky finds himself caught up in a big row with an ultimatum, his family or his career and new girlfriend.
In spite of me being able to say a lot about Micky's scenario, it does not seem to be a film that is really about Micky at all. In fact, a lot of the time, the attention is much more focused around the life of his brother Dicky, and his drug problems. Somehow, this does work however, because one of the issues Micky is trying to deal with is the fact that he is being treated as if he must live in his old brother's shadow.. As the film is based on a true story (one I can't claim to know myself) I think this makes sense. I found the predicament that Micky faces, torn between Charlene, his family and his own wishes was very effectively portrayed in this film and my attention was certainly kept throughout, even if this is not the sort of film I would normally look out for myself. For my boyfriend, it was a favourite of the year.
Mark Wahlberg played a very subdued Micky, sometimes lacking a bit too much in passion or emotion. I did sense a bit of an unpredictability within his character because he seems to be suppressing a great deal of frustration, but I think the outcome may disappoint for some. In the end I did feel that a little more was needed from him, but his performance was still fairly convincing.
Christian Bale was much more prominent as Dicky and gave a great performance of someone who clearly has issues and the wrong attitude to life. His character develops really well in the film and this does help. I'm not really sure I liked the character and yet it was hard not to feel some kind of sympathy for him.
Micky's girlfriend Charlene Fleming is played brilliantly by Amy Adams. Another impressive performance comes from Melissa Leo as Alice Ward, Micky's mother and manager. The transformation into this character is really surprising and she does actually remind me that sort of overbearing person that we sometimes suffer in life.
Much of the film is set in a run-down area where the family live, and features Dicky's crack house that he often hides at. The film has quite a realist appearance and attempts to show a raw and honest world that we hope Micky can eventually escape. The area is not exactly poverty-stricken but has quite an uncomfortable feel about it, which I imagine is meant to reinforce the efforts that people like Micky might have to go to in order to reach fame and fortune (if he can).
The film is rated 15, and contains strong language and some violence. There are hints at sexual scenes but nothing too explicit.
I really enjoyed this film and my boyfriend enjoyed it even more. In particular I liked the fact that it did not attempt to over glorify the characters or make anyone look like angels, so it was quite convincing. As my boyfriend loved this film I think he will buy it, and I would not mind watching it again, although personally it is not one I would buy.
"The Fighter" is more than just your typical sports/boxing movie. It is based on the true story of Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (played by Christian Bale), a pair of boxing brothers from Lowell, Massachusetts. Micky is a late-blooming boxer aged in his mid-30s, who is known in the world of boxing as a "stepping stone" for other boxers' careers. Dicky is a cocaine addict who spends half of his time in a "crack house" doing drugs and socializing with other addicts and the other half of his time training Micky for his fights.
Micky and Dicky are each other's best friends and support systems. Together, they pave streets for a living in order to make a steady living for themselves. Micky trains and trains, but often to no avail because he is often faced with boxers much larger than him and out of his weight class. Micky is constantly thinking about retiring because of the tremendous injuries that he sustains, the disappointment he feels in losing, and the shame in letting down the town of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Dicky already had his "big break" when he fought "Sugar" Ray Leonard. His claim to fame was that he knocked "Sugar" Ray Leonard onto the ground. Since this point in his career, Dicky has slipped into a heavy addiction of cocaine as well as the habit of committing crimes that are led by the motive of obtaining more cocaine. Dicky tries to hide his habit from his family, particularly his son. Dicky has a film crew following him around thinking that they are there to shoot a movie about his return to boxing. The audience finds out that the movie is actually an HBO-special showcasing the problem of drugs in America, particularly in former American sports stars.
Micky's manager is his mother, Alice Ward (played by Melissa Leo). She is the mother of Micky and Dicky as well as seven additional siblings, all sisters. Micky's family puts a great deal of pressure for him to perform at all costs, which gives Micky even more motivation to retire. However, the greatest pressure Micky feels in his relationships with women. When he begins dating Charlene Fleming (played by Amy Adams), they put pressure on him to break up with her, but without any basis.
After one of these fights gone awry, Micky decides to change his entire strategy: he fires his mother as his manager, and only trains with a policeman named Mickey O'Keefe. This is because Dicky is arrested and sent to prison for leading a prostitution because he was trying to get money for Micky to train. When facing arrest, Dicky arrests, resists, and when Micky comes to help, his hand is broken by a member of the police force. When he returns to his home, Micky trains harder than he ever has before. Micky agrees to not train with Dicky again because he is a distraction and dangerous. With a new strategy and support system behind him, Micky goes on to win his next four bouts, and is put in position to contend for a championship. In the last fight, he uses a strategy taught to him by his brother when he was extremely young.
After winning this fight, Dicky is released from prison. Alice takes Dicky to the gym where Micky is training for his championship bout. Thinking that everything is just as he left it, Dicky begins to spar with his brothers until he is informed that he has been let go. Micky convinces his new management to let Dicky back on the team. They agree because they feel that Micky needs his family. Dicky becomes sober and begins to train Micky for this big fight.
The day of the big fight finally arrives. It is set to take place in London, England. In the last round of the match, Micky comes alive just as his opponent, Shea Neary, is becoming tired. Micky wins the bout in knockout fashion and is named the Welterweight Champion.
This movie was really touching because I really believe in putting in the hard work to get what you want out of life. Micky Ward is a great example of what can be accomplished with hard work because he overcame all the odds: from age, to an overbearing family, to injuries. His story is truly an inspiration, and it makes me appreciate the sport of boxing even more. I found myself jumping in my seat and cheering for Micky in all his bouts. This is a great film for anyone who appreciates boxing and/or hard work.
I really enjoyed this movie, and I quickly saw why this movie was nominated and ultimately won so many awards and Oscars. I felt that Mark Wahlberg was more than just a believable fighter, but actually personified the role of Micky Ward and forced the audience to feel empathy for his character. This is a great movie for not only those who enjoy sports and/or boxing movies, but those that enjoy dramas and award-winning films.
Boxing films, as a general rule, are dead predictable. Even films that are considered the greatest for its sub-genre, have nothing spectacularly original to tell. The protagonists go through hell, their personal lives get in the way, there is always some sort of prejudice against them, but in the end the main character finds some sort of triumph and glory. If a boxer's tale doesn't follow this formula, then there is no story to tell and no one to remember. Harsh, but true. Whether it's Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky," Ron Howard's "Cinderella Man," or Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," they all follow the well-worn methods of how boxing films are made. Therefore to make an effective crowd-pleaser, the film must contain intense performances, as well as a number of exhilarating boxing scenes, set up in a gritty, urban background our protagonist can eventually break free from.
David O. Russell's "The Fighter" is no different from this; based on the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a true underdog who triumphed after years and years of struggle and endless obstacles. Sounds like the perfect Oscar-bait: and it is. The characters are moody, the atmosphere is generally gloomy, but in the finale there is one heck of an emotional punch. It's the age-old formula that still amazingly works and is much relied upon. The hype surrounding the film is more than well-deserved, and Russell has created something deep and thought-provoking enough to spark the interest of various awards voters, as well as a genuinely enjoyable, watchable sports drama that greatly appeals to the public.
Micky has been living under the shadow of his older half-brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), a has-been boxing champion who has succumbed to crack addiction. There is an HBO crew following Dicky around filming a documentary: the delusional older brother thinks it's a film chronicling his "comeback." Equally delusional is their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), a chain-smoking, trashy lady in her sixties who doesn't act like it. She is her sons' "manager," and despite her unbeatable ambition, it is clear she has more faith in the crack-head Dicky. Micky is the quieter one in his family - Alice has seven more daughter who are not afraid of speaking up, and it's almost impossible to shut Dicky up, especially when he's high on crack. Micky's been pushed around by his family, and under the guidance of the delusional mother and brother, his life has amounted to almost nothing. He trains hard, but his brother is never there to train with him. In the boxing world he is considered a joke, a "steeping stone" for all other more talented fighters to beat in the first round.
A sudden moment of realisation comes thanks to two separate events. He meets an attractive but headstrong bartender called Charlene (Amy Adams), and he also takes a beating in a match he shouldn't have done in the first place. His opponent had 20 pounds on him, but Dicky and Alice pushed him into the ring anyway, half-heartedly apologising later for the incident. Micky starts seeing the problems with his career, and with the help from Charlene who is also not afraid to speak her mind at the right moments, he decides to turn his life around, receive proper training, and make a name for himself. Of course Alice and Dicky see this as nothing but an outright betrayal - Alice struggles to warm up to Charlene who constantly but very accurately points out the flaws in Micky's training (i.e. Alice and Dicky) and is heart-broken when Micky finally starts to think and speak for himself.
With the right kind of steady training, Micky is able to enjoy some successful fights, all of which are filmed with much intensity, relying both on hectic camerawork, and the loud, deep sound of punches. The training scenes, which boil down to a series of montage showing various different little exercises every boxer has to go through, aren't boring at all to look at, with the appropriately kinetic rock music soundtrack to liven up the mood and get the audience pumped up and excited for the actual fight sequences. When Micky is taking a beating, the camera is very unforgiving, and doesn't try to sugar-coat the pain. It gets right up into his face, and accompanied by the deafening thumps of the punches, it is more than enough to truly engage in the fights. Equally important, are the inevitable moments where Micky starts fighting better. Conveying a sense of triumph is always crucial in boxing films and Russell makes the most of all Micky's victories. Some stirring moments are more drawn out than others, as to avoid any repetitive nature in the film.
Yet another pitch-perfect aspect of the film comes with the performances. Led by the four uniquely extraordinary portrayals, even though the plot developments may be familiar, the exceptional standard off the cast turns what could have ended up as a set of dull, predictable characters into more fascinating and watchable ones. First of all, there's Bale, whose yet another physical transformation through much weight-loss (remember "The Machinist"?) comes as a shock and the much deserved appearance of an alarmingly convincing drug addict. The fast-paced, head-spinning dialogue spewed out by Dicky is covered immensely well, and whilst he also manages to provide some comic-relief with his character's outrageous lifestyle, his love and bond between is brother is undeniably strong and beautifully shown.
Leo and Adams, playing the two women in Micky's life, are also simply outstanding. Leo, the strong but trashy and selfish mother of nine, the sole ruler of her household, is a true force of nature, fantastically handling every single moment of her supporting screen-time. She's not an all-out monster - she loves her family - and this is shown clearly in her emotional scenes. But the way she goes about portraying this love, her unrealistic ambitions get in the way. She is a feisty lady who wants things done in certain ways, and Leo is brilliant at capturing that. Adams, mostly known for her sweet and innocent roles in films such as "Enchanted " and "Doubt," shows a whole new side to her skills, as the street-smart bartender who can stand tall on her own. She can throw a good punch, too, and is not afraid to pick a fight to protect what she believes in.
Enough about the supporting actors who are receiving a truck-load of nominations and wins during this dizzying awards season - what about Wahlberg in the lead role? He is a very capable actor and here, is given a subdued role to play here, a boxer without much voice, since he was brought up this way. He plays this repressed character well, and side-steps enough to let the supporting members of his cast to shine. But the focus never shies away from him in any way, and Wahlberg himself is given the chance to make the film all about him and successfully seizes the moment. It's harder to do the quieter, more touching performance, but Wahlberg pulls this off.
The four performances are worth the entry price alone, even if you're not a great fan of boxing films. It's often hilarious, but not at the price of sacrificing the hugely involving drama that is really the main part of the film. Despite the familiarity, "The Fighter" is a more than worthy addition to the "sports" genre.
A lot has been said about the calibre of The Fighter, a sort of biopic based on a true story. Any film that gets Oscar nominations has something worth shouting about, surely? David Russell's approach to this film may confuse you into thinking you're going to watch a traditional sports film that's all about the sport itself. You'd be wrong. This is very much a human drama, focusing on the lives of the characters within it, wand based very much on a true story. As such, it relies on the performances and not necessarily the camera. Either way, there's some powerful stuff going on here.
'Irish' Mickey Ward has a chance at a title fight, but in order for his dreams to come true, his reputation, reliability, training and attitude must be right. His brother Dicky used to be something in the ring, and even went toe to toe with Sugar Ray, knocking him down in his prime. But can Dicky turn his attentions and do the right thing for Mickey, or will his extracurricular drug activities prove unreliable? Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale play Mickey and Dicky respectively, and it's these two that take control of the majority of the film. Wahlberg almost takes a back seat despite being the subject of the film, and this is a good thing - Bale is clearly the better actor, more used to throwing himself into a controversial and diverse role rather than playing the uncomplicated character, which is Wahlberg's forte. Casting genius here.
But they're almost overshadowed by some of the support acting here. Amy Adams plays Charlene, the love interest for Mickey, and she is excellent as the defiant woman prepared to stand by her man through everything, even standing up to his family, a very aggressive set of sisters and indeed the whole of the boxing world looking for Mickey's blood. But even this performance can't outweigh Melissa Leo's portrayal of Alice, the boys' mother. She throws everything into the performance, and a few times I found myself sitting there, open mouthed and hanging on her every word. A well deserved Oscar for her.
The remainder of the support is also very good - the plethora of sisters add a certain edge and some comedy into the proceedings, and the other characters who enter and leave the story as it continues also do very well. I suppose the biggest thing is that it all seems so real, something which is naturally helped by the fact it's all true. I don't know how much the film sticks to the truth, but the tale is exceptionally well acted, making Russell's job behind the camera that much easier.
This slots very firmly into the drama genre, with dramatic acting sequences taking control over everything else. There's not a great deal of focus on the actual boxing, but when it does come into play, it's glossed over with intensity, showing how emotional the sport can make the characters. Russell's fleeting ring action is like cramming in a whole bunch of action into a small film window, with the patience coming in the character focused parts. I liked how this worked, as it made the events in between any boxing that much more important. Bringing the characters' lives into things outside of the boxing world was also very important. Most sport based films end up treating the characters as if the sport concerned is the exclusive element of importance in their lives, and we rarely see anything 'behind the scenes' as it were. This tale almost does things in reverse, explaining how the boxer is developed through the man, and his trainer. It shows how everything comes together, how decisions are important, and just how trust can be broken and shatter someone's confidence, despite best intentions.
There are moments during the film when events start to drag. There's only so much dramatic acting that one film can give on a constant stream, and at times I thought the patience element which works so well almost degenerated into something less effective. Russell's timing and balance were certainly tested, and at a couple of moments, I did find myself checking the time to see how long had lapsed, and how long was left. However, there was so much of the film where time didn't matter that these moments were rare. It rendered it less effective than it could have been at times, but the overall impression was still very strong.
So, really, this film is all about the characters, and therefore the acting. Bale certainly leads the proceedings, as is his wont, but the backup and overall acting display is commendable in the extreme, and well worthy of its Oscar nominations even if there was no clean sweep of victory. I'd highly recommend this to anyone looking for an excellent sports based drama, but don't count on it for an action packed boxing film. Highly recommended.
The Fighter - A Knockout Film!
The Fighter has had some great reviews and awards buzz so I had fairly high expectations when I went to see it at the cinema. I have to admit I wasn't disappointed!
The film is based on a true story about two brothers from Lowell, Massachusetts. Dicky Eckland (played by an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale) has had his chance in the boxing ring and famously knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard, a story that is relived on a daily basis even although he has become a crack addict and a somewhat fallen hero. His brother (or half brother to be more technically correct) is Micky Ward a journeyman boxer who has some talent but lives in his brother's shadow and is always seen as a step up fight by opponents looking to hit the big time. He is managed by his mother Alice Ward (played by the brilliant Melissa Leo) who is a true matriarch in every sense of the word, mother to 9, seven of which are possibly the scariest girls to grace the cinema screen, their hair is back-combed and bleached within an inch of its life and to be quite honest I think you would prefer to come up against Dicky & Micky instead of them. While Alice is the manager, her focus is always on Dicky and you feel she doesn't always have Micky's best interest at heart.
Micky, who is played by Mark Wahlberg, has not much time left to crack the big time and his coach and brother Dicky while a great tactician cannot always be relied upon to even turn up for training sessions. Micky's barmaid girlfriend Charlene (played by the superb Amy Adams) has Micky's best interests at heart and goes head to head with his family (even giving a mean right hook too) to release him from their hold and give him his best chance at a title fight. Throughout the film a documentary film crew follows Dicky on what is thought to be about his potential comeback but really ends up being about his crack addiction.
This film is more than just about the boxing it is about family, relationships and all their ghosts that haunt us. The cast is quite literally superb and I was certainly not surprised to see it nominated for so many Oscars and for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo to pick up gongs for Best Supporting Actor and Actress - both very well deserved. The film has highs and lows and you are taken there with each character. You care what happens to them and there is also plenty of humour along the way to lighten the mood on occasion.
I would thoroughly recommend this film for the engaging performances of a stellar cast, a well made film that leaves you still thinking about it hours and days after seeing it. It deserves all the awards it gets.
From Raging Bull to Rocky, Hollywood has always had a fascination with boxing. Perhaps it's because it throws up so many underdog/against the odds/rags to riches tales; or (being cynical) perhaps it's because boxing matches are brutal and exciting, but don't cost much in terms of special effects.
Whatever the reason, this love affair with fighting shows no sign of abating and The Fighter is the latest in a long line of Hollywood takes on real-life boxing tales. It follows the career of "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother Dicky, himself a former boxer (whose constant claim to fame is that he once knocked down the great Sugar Ray Leonard) now fallen on hard times.
Even if you don't like boxing, The Fighter is likely to appeal to you. The actual fights are mostly limited to clips of ten seconds or less, there are no training montages (indeed, the film should be congratulated for mostly avoiding the usual boxing movie clichés). Anyone wanting a more traditional sports movie might regard this as a bad thing, but to my mind, it turns it to its advantage. Instead, the film is more of a human/family drama, looking at the dysfunctional home life that sits behind Micky. Instead of through staged fights, the tension, drama and interest come via Micky's relationships with his extended interfering and over-protective family, particularly his very close (and slightly tragic) relationship with his brother.
Certainly, you could accuse the story arc of being a slightly predictable "against the odds tale", but it the material is handled very well. There is a genuine sense of tension and pressure and come the final title fight you will still find yourself on the edge of your seat, even though you are fairly confident what the final outcome will be.
More than the fight scenes, though it's the various familial relationships that provide the real emotional pull. Micky's family are managing his career badly, making all the wrong decisions yet, because he needs and loves his family so much, he cannot break away from them.
Nowhere is this conflict more obvious than in the relationship between Micky and his brother. Dicky has taught Micky everything he knows and is idolised by him, yet Dicky's crack addiction and tendency to live in the past threatens to drag his brother down with him. Micky loves and needs his brother, yet his increasingly erratic behaviour is destroying his own chances of making it as a top fighter. It's almost heart-breaking to watch this pair as they cling to each other; providing a stable point in a world filled with uncertainty, yet risking drowning together because of this mutual dependence.
This relationship is played out through a superb pair of performances from Mark Wahlberg (Micky) and Christian Bale (Dicky). Bale has the slightly showier role (his character's crack addiction and increasingly tenuous grasp of reality allows for a more exaggerated performance), yet Wahlberg never allows himself to be outperformed. He brings a quiet sense of exasperation and dignity to the role which means you can't help but root for him and arguably, gives the more nuanced performance. Crucially, there is a genuine sense of chemistry between the two actors, which reflects the close bond tying the brothers to each others' fate.
Nor are the good performances just limited to the central roles; it is a film packed with fine acting. Amy Adams is excellent as Micky's feisty girlfriend, Charlene and the scenes in which she argues and fights with Micky's family are superb and highly realistic (not to mention uncomfortable). Melissa Leo is utterly convincing as Micky's over-bearing mother, Alice whilst there are more restrained (but deeply dignified performances from Jack McGee (as Micky's father, George) Virtually every actor provides a subtly shaded performance and, no matter how grotesque they might appear, the audience can still have a great deal of sympathy for them as they truly believe they have Micky's best interests at heart.
Essentially, wherever you look there are fine performances littering the screen and barely a single moment is wasted. This is one of those instances where every aspect of the casting just works; no-one is in the wrong role, no-one stands and dominates the film and everyone appears to be working together to make the very best story they can.
It's true that the film does lose its way slightly in the middle and the endless family feuding becomes a little tiresome. It's also noticeable that this period coincides with one where Christian Bale is off-screen much of the time, and his interaction with his brother is sorely missed. Yet, even during these slightly slower periods, the film is never less than interesting; and, in the build-up to the final climactic fight, becomes engrossing. It might have a near two-hour run time, but for most of that, it will keep you enthralled.
Lovers of biopics might also be slightly disappointed that this film only concentrates on a very specific period in the life of Ward and his brother. Their rough childhood is often hinted at, but never explicitly explored and there are other avenues it might have been interesting to cast more light on. Still, the focus on a tighter period of time does allow The Fighter to concentrate on specific issues facing the main protagonists at a crucial time.
It's also difficult to establish how much of the tale is true and how much is a Hollywood-ised version of the truth and, if you really know your boxing, it's possible that the film might annoy you if it takes liberties with the real story (as I am sure it does). For someone like me, however, who had never heard of "Irish" Micky Ward before stepping into the cinema, I couldn't give two hoots about how accurate it is. All I know is that I watched a superb, engrossing film featuring some top-notch performances from some very fine actors.
Director: David O Russell
Running time: approx 116 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2011
Less a movie about former boxer "Irish" Micky Ward than it is about his dysfunctional family surrounding him, The Fighter seems more of a slog through the bickering women, poverty and drugs than it is an entertaining tale about a man triumphing in the ring.
Obviously, that's part of the whole point: Ward was never that great a boxer, but he had more heart than most, and screenwriters Eric Johnson, Paul Tamasy and Scott Silver have aimed to depict the roots of his struggle for the big screen.
Mark Walhberg plays Ward, a promising boxer from the slums of Lowell, Massachusetts; Christian Bale (with a deliberately skinnier physique) plays his half-brother, trainer and former fighter, Dicky Eklund, who has become addicted crack cocaine. After meeting a tough-talking barmaid named Charlene (Amy Adams), Ward is soon convinced that his brother has become a liability and goes on to train seriously in Las Vegas -- much to the disapproval of his mother (Melissa Leo) and seven sisters.
The setup may sound fine: We've seen films about not-too-great athletes before -- De Niro as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby and Stallone as Rocky (albeit a fictional character) in the films of the same name. Where The Fighter fails, however, is in its efforts to really involve you in the protagonist's life so that we really want to spur him on until the very end.
By the time the film approaches the final title fight with British boxer Shea Neary, there's not as much anticipation for Ward's soon-to-be triumph as their should be. This is mainly due to the picture preferring to focus upon the bickering nature of the family members than it is his actual training/involvement with the sport.
Particularly, it is Edmund's crack addiction (which was already the main subject of the HBO documentary High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell) that occupies a large majority of the screen time here. This isn't really for the better as Bale comes across as too much of a wild, satirical caricature, and it's easier to off-put by him than it is engrossed. The seven sisters and are annoying, also.
On the contrary, Wahlberg's character is much calmer and low-key, but is equally as uniteresting. This isn't specifically the fault of the actor, though; moreso, it's probably down to how the director and his team of screenwriters see Micky Ward in real life.
Being as imbalanced as it is, The Fighter fails to find any middle ground, and the enjoyment factor suffers considerably as a result. The boxing scenes, whilst realistic, lack the emotional impact, also, and fail to be the movie's saving grace (see Rocky Balboa for the right balance of realism and emotional idealism when characters face off in the ring).
Even Ward's awesome trilogy of battles with Arturo Gatti isn't covered here. No doubt that this will disappoint fight fans even further.
(C) Andy Carrington, 2011.