As happens with most preview screenings over on Culch.ie, an email went out to the group but I responded back damn fast on this one. The Fighter, starring Mark Whalberg and Christian Bale, was a film I’d singled out from the first trailer and a half day off work was well worth it.
The film is based on the real-life story of boxer Micky Ward from Lowell, Massachusetts. Micky has grown up in the shadow of his older half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). It’s clear that Dicky was once a fantastic fighter but over the years has slipped in with the wrong crowd.He’s still living off the prestige of his high flying days and believes that there’s still time for his comeback. If there’s a single film this year that manages to capture blue collar life as well as The Fighter does, I’d be surprised. Micky works on the roads and struggles to make his family realise that he deserves a genuine shot at success in the ring. It’s a testament to the spirit of the man, and Mark Whalberg’s performance, that he makes you believe he can go all the way. Charlene (Amy Adams), a smart local barmaid, becomes the stable influence Micky needs to make him realise that he can’t waste any more time. It’d be remiss not to mention the excellent performance of Micky’s mother played by Melissa Leo. Whilst being the foundation of her extensive family, she’s content to focus on Dicky to the detriment of his brother.
I’m always struck by how Christian Bale constructs his complete being into characters. Here he has lost weight and become a frail frame on which he hangs a delusional man, haunted by who he was and who he could be in the future. The interplay between Whalberg and Bale is utterly convincing of a sibling respect tested to the extreme by the choices Dicky is making. When Micky finally gets some fights under his belt it’s clear that he’s learning from the errors his brother made in the ring. The creative decision to use TV cameras for the fight scenes is inspired as it lends a visceral quality to the action. Ward takes a lot of punishment and I’ve never been more convinced of how brutal the sport is. I won’t go into any further plot details as I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice is to say that you’re treated to a fantastic acting ensemble, a sharp script and beautiful urban cinematography. The Fighter could go twelve rounds with Rocky any day. Highly recommended.
The Fighter is on general release from February 2nd.