2010 R 115 minutes
Boxer “Irish” Micky Ward has a fighting style. It is slow and painful to watch at first then becomes explosive and riveting. The same is true of the movie based on his life.
Most of my movie viewing is done after work. On the day I watched The Fighter I had put in a full shift. Now, granted, shoveling electrons is not as hard as moving anything with a real shovel for a living, but work is work and I get tired. So an entertainment must first, keep my eyes open. There is nothing more annoying to me than falling asleep during a DVD and having to replay much of it to figure out where I dropped off.
That is the problem with this movie. I nearly hit the “fugahdaboutit” button. But then I got hooked.
Actor mark Wahlberg, who has certainly made his mark since he showed us what he wasn’t made of in Boogie Nights (it was a prosthetic kids, get over it) could have easily just revisited his role as the Boston tough guy he played in The Departed but he didn’t, playing the role of one time world light welterweight champion Ward with rich subtlety and texture. Plus the guy is buff!
Director David O. Russell’s (Three Kings (1999) Flirting with Disaster (1996) and the forthcoming The Silver Linings Playbook also starring Wahlberg) challenges were many on this project. Telling the story of people who are very much alive and looking over your shoulder is tough enough, but doing it on the very same streets and in the houses where the action happened must have been a real eye-opener. His plodding pace turns out to be no more and no less than a realistic telling of the story.
We are not really breaking new ground here. I am sure that you can find many reference points from the Rocky franchise to Cinderella Man to...Raging Bull. The difference in this movie is that the love story is not between the protagonist and the girl. It’s a love story between the Ward brothers and it is handled deftly.
The other star of the film is Lowell, Massachusetts and more specifically the people of Lowell. It’s a tough place, the people are no prisoners taken and the overall feeling of a town struggling to keep afloat after being abandoned by industry is spot on. Having lived most of my life in an area where the principal industry deserted the populace I can attest to the reality of what went up on the screen.
Wahlberg says that he worked out for four years before shooting the movie. He certainly looks the part with six pack abs and huge guns. Christian Bale, who plays his half-brother Dicky, absolutely nails the part of a substance-abuse addled tough guy. Other stand out performances include Melissa Leo, who immerses herself in the role of Alice Ward, the boy’s Mom and Mickey O’Keefe, who remarkably plays Himself, not an easy thing to do.
There is no spoiler here. Guy fights, loses, fights, wins. Lather, repeat and rinse. But the story is told so well that you forget the formula. A word of caution: the fight scenes are particularly visceral and will leave you gasping. Best to put down the drink and the popcorn when the ring girls are on screen.
The Rant D’Jour is about AED’s.
There is a difference between book smart and practical smart. More on that in a…more