Reviewed for MovieWeb by Harvey Karten
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Cast: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 11/15, 2010
Opens: December 10, 2010
This is probably the only film you'll see outside of outrageous satire that finds tough male prison inmates clamoring to see an HBO documentary. "The Fighter," closely based on the true story of former welterweight boxing champion Micky "Irish" Ward and executive produced by "The Wrestler" director Darren Aronofsky, spends a few exciting moments inside the ring, but director David O. Russell is far more interested in showing us what goes on inside what might be considered the typical working-class families of those who take up the pugilistic sport of boxing.
Mark Wahlberg, in terrific shape as the title character, Micky Ward, and Christian Bale as his crack-addicted, gaunt half-brother, share a rocky upbringing in Lowell, Massachusetts under domineering mother Alice (Melissa Leo), whose brood of nine includes a stable of young women who, when lined up on the sofa look as though they're waiting for customers in a brothel. Though Wahlberg's Micky Ward lucks out not only by gaining a shot at a title bout in London but also by becoming the steady of Charlene (played by Amy Adams, arguably the cutest young woman in Hollywood), the more challenging and dramatic role belongs to Dicky, who serves as Micky's idol and mentor but whose drug addiction causes Micky's girlfriend, mother, sisters, and just about anyone else with an interest in Micky's career to want Dicky out of the picture.
The opening segments of the movie belong to Bale, almost unrecognizable with sunken cheeks and crackhead teeth as he saunters down the blocks of the town of Lowell promoting himself to the locals as the man ready for a comeback. He cites his knockdown of Sugar Ray Leonard-who, some believe had merely tripped-but now, at the age of 40 with a pronounced bald spot is over-the-hill for any dimension save as his half-brother's trainer. Most of the humor is physical. There is one gem of verbal humor: when Micky takes Charlene to a movie, to "La Belle Epoque," of all choices, he falls asleep, head back, likely snoring. On the way out, she sniffs, "Why did you take me to that show? All I did was read!"
The two strong women are Charlene, a college dropout who has worked a number or bars and who is in her main man's corner even to the extent of challenging his half-brother's influence; and Alice, a mother whose maternal instinct is purely cartoonish working-class though one may wonder whether her autocratic manner might be the only way to keep discipline over a household of harpies.
The film is being pushed for awards, though "The Fighter" is as conventional as its producer Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" is quirky.
Rated R. 115 minutes. © 2010 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online