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The Fighter

The Fighter

What he said:

He

I didn’t know a whole lot about Micky Ward going into this movie. Truth be told, I was kind of thankful for that. I often find sports movies based on true stories to be kind of boring. I have a hard time getting invested in a movie when I know the outcome.

The only thing I knew about him was the legendary trilogy with Arturo Gatti (not covered in the film), and I even forgot about that until I saw the film.

Ward (played by Mark “don’t call him Marky” Wahlberg) is the definition of a journeyman. He’s pushing 30 and made no real gains in the game of boxing. His career is on the brink of falling apart.

He’s managed by his mother Alice and trained by his half brother Dicky Eklund. While well-intentioned, they make a series of decisions that have led his career down a bad path. Perhaps even more detrimental, they simply refuse to put him first. They both cling to this delusion that Dicky – who hasn’t fought in five years – is going to somehow recapture his former glory despite having been a junkie most of his life. Dicky (played by Christian Bale) has destroyed his career and both he and his mother cannot admit this fact.

A series of incidents forces Dicky to do time in prison and Micky to distance himself from his brother and mother (played by Melissa Leo). Micky’s father and girlfriend (played by Amy Adams) come up with the idea and after a while, he actually sees noticeable progress. Upon Dicky’s release though, his mother and brother expect things to go back to normal. The movie is primarily about how the family overcomes these struggles and more.

Micky is the primary vehicle through which the story is told, but the whole gang is involved throughout the film. The movie is about growth and in more ways than one. Can Dicky and Alice (the mother) focus on the present and not the past? They are tested as the focus shifts from Dickey’s “comeback” to Micky’s now aspiring career. Micky is forced to grow up a little and be selfish for once (but in a good way). With the help of some family and friends, Mickey – who’s very quiet – gains enough confidence and is able to focus on what he wants for a change. It is a very well done character study.

Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both won an Oscar for their roles and deservedly so. They captured the “eccentric” personalities (I’m guessing, because I don’t know them) of these people very well. The way they look is an excellent example of how much they invested in the roles.

And while I’m on that I have to give a shout out to the women who played the sisters. While not major roles, I have never seen a bunch of more authentic looking characters in my life. Looking bad has never looked so good.

I would be remiss if I left out Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams. Unlike most awards shows, I won’t fail to acknowledge them. They were quite good as well and I have a hunch the only reason the other two received more praise is because the people they were portraying were both more flamboyant than Micky or Charlene.   

The whole movie was well-acted from top to bottom. Even smaller parts such as the father or his trainer (not Dicky, but the other one) were 100% believable.

This movie review was given the seal of approval by “the He” on March 21, 2011.

Rating: Thumbs up

What she said:

He

The Fighter is a movie about boxing, but for those of us who want more than a sports flick, it’s also a film about a family, a very screwed up family.  Mark Wahlberg leads an exceptional cast that includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo. 

Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a struggling boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, whose career is in question.  He’s trained by his half-brother, Dicky Eklund, a former boxer who once went toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard.  Dicky has an exceptional knowledge of the sport but has been personally derailed by drug addiction, taking a toll on his both his own career (which is nonexistent) as well as his brother’s.  At the head of this family is their mother, played by Melissa Leo, a headstrong headcase, who acts as Micky’s manager.  Oh, and Micky and Dicky have a ridiculous number of sisters.

The family is not exactly high-class, but 1980s Lowell doesn’t seem like a dream town either.  The movie follows the family as they attempt to make Micky a star.  Meanwhile, Dicky has his own dream of a comeback, despite the fact that he is a shadow of his former self.  The dynamics of the family are nuts.  They fight, they make-up, mom runs the show, and Micky is ultimately the one who suffers.  Adams plays Charlene, Micky’s inspiring new girlfriend, who takes on the family to try to get him on the right track to success. 

The movie is filled with outstanding performances.  It would be easy for these characters to be over-acted, because they are so one-of-a-kind.  But everyone—Bale, Leo, Wahlberg, and Adams—is excellent.  The actual plot of the movie is somewhat predictable, but you’ll kind of want it to be.  It’s “based on a true story,” although I’m not sure how close to reality it is.  The movie is about more than winning, it’s about relationships and character growth, and that’s what will offer the most value.  Keep a close eye on that part of the story, and you’ll really enjoy this.

Diagnosis: Thumbs up.