Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Fighter (David O. Russell)

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as Mickey Ward and Dickie Ecklund.

"The Fighter" is a boxing biopic that, unlike any other films of the said sports sub-genre that endlessly attempt to revolutionize fight sequences, is more concerned about Mickey Ward's (Mark Wahlberg) family's several dysfunctions than his boxing career and his professional fights. Dickie Ecklund, portrayed by Christian Bale in what may be one of the best performances of 2010 and arguably of his career, is Ward's brother and trainer whose uncontrolled carelessness and involvement with drugs made him one of the many reasons of their familial problems.

"The Fighter" is quite a riveting film that also depicts reality in small town America; a set of mundane existences that contains brawls, shouting contests and countless police arrests but always comes out as a human comedy showing folly as a way of life and the only mode of progression. Christian Bale's performance was so overwhelming in its screen presence that Wahlberg's portrayal of which should have been the central character of the film looked very, very pale in comparison. While Bale loses himself within the persona of Dickie Ecklund, Wahlberg is just Marky Mark being Marky Mark playing Mickey Ward.

Though the boxing sequences itself weren't really anything that evoke power, blood and in-ring claustrophobia ("Raging Bull" captured that perfectly), the slightly grainy HBO television broadcast visual look of the said sequences fully suggest of the film's realistic approach to the sport of boxing rather than a cinematic punch ballet ala "Cinderella Man" (though it's quite great).

I have no other problems with "The Fighter", I thought it was a great 2010 film filled with great performances (particularly by Melissa Leo and the bunch of actresses that played Mickey Ward's sisters). Maybe I just got too connected with the brothers' lives and their trying times outside the squared circle that when the screen went black with Ward's London victory succeeded by the obligatory title cards of "what happened next", I thought it should not have been the way it ended.

Ward's first encounter with the late Arturo Gatti would have given the film's thoroughly invested emotions a perfect fight companion and may also serve as the ultimate exclamation point to Mickey Ward's uphill climb story of an underdog making it big. Granted, the film has ended on a high note, but it never did try to reach the highest one there is.


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