66 of 79 people found the following review helpful
"The Fighter" is easily director David O. Russell's most conventional film to date. Russell has been out of the film world for a few years after the mixed reception he received with the release of 2004's "I Heart Huckabees," an underrated film that may have tried a bit too hard. But when Russell burst onto the scene with the subversive "Spanking the Monkey," the exquisitely madcap "Flirting with Disaster," and the audacious "Three Kings"--I knew that I would follow this guy wherever he led! Well, he's back. "The Fighter" comes straight from the underdog sports genre of filmmaking, and in its plotting stays true to the course you would expect. But thankfully, there's a bit more to this appealing tale that's as much about brotherhood as it is about prizefighting. Sold by an A-list cast (the acting awards and nominations have already started rolling in), "The Fighter" manages, for the most part, to transcend the usual cliches with its focus on family.
Telling the true life tale of Micky Ward's unorthodox, and extremely bumpy, road to capturing the world light welterweight title--"The Fighter" appeals to the same everyman underdog sensibilities that countless films have already tapped. Mark Wahlberg, in a refreshingly understated way, lends a calmness to the center of the picture. The rest of the cast, for good and bad, go for broke in large showy performances. Christian Bale, gaunt and tweaking, plays Ward's brother. A former boxer and Micky's trainer, Bale is hapless and helpless as a habitual crack addict and a lowlife criminal. The drama between Bale and Wahlberg is easily the strongest element in "The Fighter" with Bale being both invaluable AND utterly destructive to Wahlberg's career prospects. Wahlberg is continually overshadowed within the family by his needier brother who tasted greatness before completely falling apart.
Make no mistake, in my opinion, "The Fighter" belongs to Christian Bale in perhaps the finest performance of his career and of the year. Stripped to skeletal proportions, Bale inhabits every moment with a desperate intensity. But despite everything, you understand why Wahlberg can't turn his back on his brother. Amy Adams displays a pleasing toughness in a change of pace role as Wahlberg's girlfriend. And Melissa Leo has been garnering a lot of attention as the brothers' mother. Unfortunately, the film is not without its shortcomings. For my taste, Leo is a bit over-the-top as is much of the other family dynamic. There are many sisters on hand, none of whom are developed, and so when the whole clan gets together--those scenes tend to veer over the line of believability.
I can easily overlook these false (and noisy) moments, however, to admire the interplay between the brothers. Every quiet moment is worth it. It's easy to lose Walhberg in all the larger than life shenanigans, but were it not for his simplicity--""The Fighter" might have pushed into overwrought melodrama. As is, he perfectly balances with Bale's manic energy. And I have to say it again--Bale is stunning! For this alone, "The Fighter" stands apart from every other film selling a similar story. Bale, Bale, Bale!!!!! KGHarris, 12/10.
51 of 61 people found the following review helpful
The Fighter has been a must-see film of mine ever since at least the end of October. Not only did the cast look to function as one strong, cohesive unit, Christian Bale looked to transform himself yet again and had gotten completely absorbed in his role as Dicky Eklund. From just viewing the trailer, Bale seemed to give a performance that reminded his fans just how talented he can actually be. The Fighter also seemed to have a lot of emotion and heart; two key ingredients that go on to making movies like this legendary. The real test would be if The Fighter could hold up to other great boxing films like Rocky or Raging Bull and in this critic's humble opinion, it does just that.
Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) is following in his brother Dicky's (Bale) footsteps and is trying to make a name for himself as a boxer. Dicky has been giving Mickey advice and helping Mickey train for as long as they can both remember while their mother Alice (Leo) has been acting as his manager the entire time. Mickey knows it's time for a change if he expects to make a serious impact in the boxing world, but a crack addicted brother and a mom who thinks she's helping his career when she's really hurting it have both been holding him back for far too long. So when Charlene (Adams) and Mickey become an item and Dicky winds up in prison, Mickey makes the hardest decision of his life and keeps fighting with new management in tow and seemingly pushes his family out. As Mickey's mother tries to wrap her head around her son replacing her as manager, all hell breaks loose once Dicky gets out of prison. As the date for the most important fight in Mickey's career fast approaches, will he have the support of his family or has everything already fallen apart past the point of being repaired?
The cast is the driving force behind this film. The relationships and arguments that take place between Mickey, Dicky, their mother, her seven daughters, George Ward (Jack McGee), Charlene, and Mickey O'Keefe (as himself) are really the heart behind all the boxing that takes place. Melissa Leo turns in an emotionally powerful performance as you can tell she only wants the best for her family, does everything within her power to do just that, and still seems to wind up hurting them in the long run. Amy Adams character, Charlene, seems to want nothing more than to be with Mickey but is also relying on his success to be the ticket to her bettering her life. Then there's Mark Wahlberg who always seems to play the same role with the same thick Boston accent. The thing about Mickey though is that Wahlberg fits the part very well. The extensive training Wahlberg went through and his experience made him a shoe-in for this role. The real gem of the film is Christian Bale though. Bale has been rather disappointing performance-wise since The Dark Knight and it's nice to see him back in top form here. He surely looks the part as his awkward body language, sick, clammy skin tone, and the way he seems to be chewing on something when he's not eating anything really makes him come off as a genuine crack addict. I was beginning to think that success had gotten to his head, but even if it has it's great to know that he can still turn in engaging performances like this when he feels like it.
What's interesting is the song, "How You Like Me Now?" by The Heavy that was also used in the trailers for Faster is used several times in The Fighter. It seems to be utilized more efficiently in The Fighter though. It felt like the song was used in Faster just because it sounded cool, but the song seems to have a stronger impact in a film about a boxer trying to turn his life around better than a film about a guy trying to gain revenge for his brother's death. It was a very welcome addition to the soundtrack and makes the opening segment to The Fighter even more memorable than it already was.
The film also wastes little time taking full control of your attention. You don't lose interest until that screen turns black. With the little bits of humor thrown in for good measure amongst all of the family brawling and knockout punches being thrown around, it was just really easy to get lost in the film. It was almost as if you were part of the documentary crew filming Dicky watching this all take place in person. The one complaint I have is that it all seems to end rather prematurely. While everything does come together nicely, the ending just doesn't feel fully gratifying. It felt like the film ended right in the middle of the climax, but consider it a nitpick. It's still an excellent film.
The Fighter is an engrossing and emotionally powerful drama that features an incredibly strong cast and the best performance from Christian Bale in a long, long time. I honestly haven't liked a boxing film this much since Raging Bull. With all of the end of the year awards talk and so many movies being released recently and in the coming weeks that'll be potential award winners, it is well worth every effort to see The Fighter in theaters. It has one of the most well-rounded and well put-together casts of any film to be released in theaters this year and deserves to be seen on the big screen.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2011
I have to say Christian Bale was absolutely flawless in his portrayal of such a complex character, Dickie. While I found Mark Wahlberg's Mickey to be pretty one dimensional, Bale executed an emotional performance of a character who encompassed every adjective in the book: funny, quirky, crazy, selfish, pathetic, delusional,endearing,loyal etc. I also thought Amy Adams was wonderful in a role that showcased her range as an actress.
As a Massachusetts native, I enjoyed seeing the Lowell setting and I was oh so grateful that there were no God-awful, overexaggerated accents (I'm talking to you Diane Lane). Although the "underdog comes up big" story is one we've seen before, this is truly a well acted, entertaining movie.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2011
I have to say this is one of the best boxing films ever made. Its based on Micky Ward and although it takes a few liberties with his boxing career I think its probably pretty accurate as far as how things were in his day to day life. They did ignore his fights with Arturo Gatti and made his fight with Shea Neary out to be a world title fight when it wasn't. All the actors and actresses in this did a great job though. I was really impressed. Even if you dont like boxing I'd recomend it. It has a gritty realism and shows what white working class people have to deal with in life which is rare to see from Hollywood.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With so many fight flicks out there, it helps to be a little bit different. The film's creator, Mark Wahlberg, wisely explores Prizefighter Micky Ward's family conflicts for three quarters of the film, rather than dwelling mainly on the conflicts in the ring. Wahlberg was attracted to Ward's story since they both grew up in large families, in a working class Massachusetts environment. For those who have no interest in astrology, I apologize, but I would like to point out that the natural inquisitive nature of a Gemini (Wahlberg), goes quite well with the laid back, easygoing Libran (Ward). What we end up with 'The Fighter' is an 'airy' concoction--a film that manages to exude a 'feel good' sensibility coupled with the strong dialectic between two brothers, whose mutual attraction and repulsion is constantly shifting.
Since 'The Fighter' is based on the true story of Ward's rise to the top as a champion welterweight, whenever reality weasels its way into the narrative, the film is quite absorbing. The entire scene where Ward, goaded by his mother, agrees to fight an opponent twenty pounds heavier than he is, and then gets his ass kicked, is something I've never seen before in a boxing film. Ward's brother, Dicky (played by a chameleon-like Christian Bale), also provides a great deal of 'color' to an otherwise traditional tale of pugilistic ambition. Who can forget when Micky ignores his trainer's game plan and adopts his brother's strategy to win the title fight? This despite Dicky's continual descent into the hellhole of crack addiction.
The bulk of 'The Fighter', however, is much more a tale of filial obligation (or should I say obsession?) than the history of Micky Ward's ascent to the welterweight crown. Why does it take Micky so long to realize that Dicky is actually holding him back? The answer in a nutshell is misguided filial obligation. A deeper subtext is that the Ward brothers are both in an unconscious incestuous relationship with their mother (played by an over the top Melissa Leo). While Micky eventually breaks free, Dicky takes a more circuitous route toward redemption. He must first go to prison where he finally overcomes his crack addiction and eventually allows his brother to fight without any conditions (that is, with Dicky no longer acting as if his brother owed him something).
I would urge anyone who has seen 'The Fighter', to also see Visconti's "Rocco and his Brothers"--both films deal with two brothers who are prizefighters. In 'Rocco', the stakes are much higher: the successful prizefighter brother also has a misguided filial obligation to his now washed up sibling. Unlike Dicky (who eventually gives up his unhealthy family relationships), Rocco covers for his brother who has committed both rape and murder. Unlike the Visconti classic, Wahlberg is content to offer up a happy ending, where Dicky is welcomed into Micky's new boxing family, accepted by them despite all the past recriminations.
The three principals here all acquit themselves well. The most impressive aspect of Wahlberg's performance is his physical conditioning; he trained for four years to get himself into shape to play this role. Even better is Christian Bale as Dicky. Bale lost approximately sixty pounds to play Micky's crack-addicted brother; when you first see him, you won't even realize it's Christian Bale. Amy Adams finally breaks out of her 'good girl' roles and plays a sexy, working class gal who helps Micky break his ties with his mother.
Less successful is Melissa Leo as Alice Ward, the mother of the seven daughters. Yes, we get the idea that she's a control freak, but does all that 'control freak' stuff have to repeat itself ad infinitum? The daughters (described by many critics as a virtual "Greek Chorus"), provide additional cartoonish machinations; the stale comic relief reaches its apotheosis in the scene where the daughters try and pummel Micky's girlfriend, Charlene.
Micky Ward's victory during the Championship Fight in London seems a bit anti-climactic. Wahlberg went to great lengths to reproduce the actual fight as it appeared on HBO in 2000. The actual recording of the HBO announcers was utilized during the film and the fight sequences were choreographed to match the actual movements of the boxers. It just seems kind of lazy to pad the end of your film with the reproduction of an actual event, which you could probably better enjoy by watching the real thing.
'The Fighter' probably would have worked better had it been cut down by about 20 to 30 minutes. A good number of the scenes feel as if they're improvised and sometimes drag a bit. Nonetheless, the holy trinity of Wahlberg, Bale and Adams, make this fairly traditional boxing yarn, entertaining. Wahlberg stays true to his Gemini sign--there is something for everybody here: whether it be over the top acting performances, intense family conflict with incestuous undertones and gritty recreations of fighters plying their trade in the ring.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2012
The Fighter tells the real-life story of junior welterweight boxer Micky Ward, of Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1995 HBO produced a documentary, High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, that chronicled the plights of three crack addicts. One of its subjects was Micky's older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (played by Christian Bale, who won an Oscar for this performance). Dicky was also a boxer. He had "gone the distance" with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978 but has turned into a self-destructing wreck. The wonder of the film is Micky's relationship with his family: his brother, who is his trainer; his dominating mother (Melissa Leo won an Academy Award for this role), who is his manager; her second husband; and Micky's six sisters (who still live at home and behave like a Greek chorus backing up whatever Mom says). Then there is Charlene, his new love, who is as tough as his mother and trying to get Micky away from this crazy bunch. This film deserved its acclaim.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2011
At first, looking at the movie stills or the DVD sleeve, one may think that the `The Fighter' is a film on boxing. It is about boxing, sure, but David O' Russell's film is more about family, the strains of having one and the relationships between brothers and their fights.
A narration of Mick Wards (Wahlberg) journey to the welterweight title the Fighter is easily one of the best films of the year. Throughout his career which had signs of immense promise, Mick Ward had been falling short of the big title win. Part of the problem lay with the choice of opponents and generally bad advice dished out by his manager mother ( Melissa Leo) and trainer brother/ drug addict Dicky ( Christian Bale). Although Ward is aware of his greatness he is constantly hampered by the ties of his family and his obligations to them. He meets Charlene (Amy Adams) and things start to change. Dicky manages to land himself in prison and Mick decides to train under a new management thus setting him up for a confrontation with his family.
The story is driven by some fine performances by the entire cast but make no mistake this film belongs to Christian Bale; I think this is easily one of his best performances. Playing a former champ who once knocked out Sugar Ray, he transforms himself both physically and mentally for the role. His hollowed out cheeks and manic intensity inhabits the screen and threatens to drown out everyone. The Fighter may be Wahlberg but Bale gets to deliver the knockout punch, however it is to Wahlberg's credit that he does not get drowned out by this fine acting and stands his ground with an even performance in many thrilling scenes throughout the film. It may be easy to hate Bale at times but his goofy personality and his love for his brother shines throughout the scene. In the screen credits at the end, we get a peek at the real Wards. I highly recommend this film with 4 stars. 6/17/2011
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Fighter is quite a good film. The themes of family, courage, pride and rising to a challenge are well explored here and because these themes are so universal it makes a great story--one that is based on real life, too! Of course, this isn't the first film to examine these issues; but The Fighter does it all with panache. While the acting by the entire cast is superlative, Christian Bale steals practically every scene he's in as he portrays Dicky Eklund, a local boxing legend living in Lowell, Massachusetts. In addition, the choreography couldn't have been any better; and the cinematography left nothing to be desired.
When the action starts, we quickly meet Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a mostly unsuccessful boxer being managed by his mother Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) and trained by both his unreliable, drug addicted half-brother Dicky (Christian Bale)and Mickey O'Keefe, a police sergeant in the Lowell police department. Although Alice, Dicky and Mickey have nothing but the best of intentions as far as Micky's career is concerned, Micky is seen in the boxing world as nothing but a "stepping stone," a boxer other people fight and almost always beat as they climb their way up the ladder. Micky yearns for a more successful career in professional boxing; and Mark Wahlberg's acting is so fine that I really felt for Micky.
Things become more complicated when Micky's life starts to change: he meets a gutsy young woman named Charlene (Amy Adams) who, although she is herself a college dropout, has spirit, a sharp mind and true belief in Micky's ability to go further in the world of boxing. She encourages Micky to take an offer to train year-round in Las Vegas; this causes a major upheaval in the family as Alice and Dicky are shocked and hurt by the realization that Micky just might go to Vegas to train for real--and this would mean they failed to help one of their own become successful. Things get even worse when Dicky is arrested and Micky's hand is badly hurt by the police when he is also arrested for trying to interfere with Dicky's arrest.
There are some very good plot twists and turns that I won't mention for fear of spoiling it for you; suffice it to say that the characters in this film experience quite a bit of action and soul searching along the way. Look for an excellent performance by Mickey O'Keefe as himself, a police sergeant in Lowell, Massachusetts who also trained Micky along the way; and Jack McGee does a wonderful job of playing Alice's husband George. Frank Renzulli plays Sal Lanano and Sugar Ray Leonard has a cameo in the film. There's also an interesting subplot about the making of a film about Dicky.
The DVD comes with an optional running commentary and there is a "making of" featurette that I particularly enjoyed.
Overall, The Fighter is a very good movie that I would recommend for anyone interested in gritty dramas based on real life events with action and suspense--as well as family issues being played out. Fans of the actors in this film will also want this for their collections.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Fighter is a blue collar biopic about Micky Ward (Wahlberg), a hard-nosed boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts with an affinity for liver punches. Following the undulating path of his boxing career, the movie shows in the incredible familial struggles Micky had to confront in order to position himself as one of the most exciting boxers of the last 50 years. Wedged between his brother Dicky Eklund (Bale), a former boxer who returned home a local legend after fighting Sugar Ray Leonard, a controlling mother (Melissa Leo) who is one of the most disgusting characters ever to "grace" the screen, and a caring but conflicted new girlfriend named Charlene (Amy Adams), there is pressure on Micky to fix everything, to make everyone happen, to live up to or exceed his brother's lofty reputation and win a championship.
What I liked about The Fighter is the fact that it's not a generic boxing movie where we see a little of the character's life, and then a montage of boxing matches. This is supposed to be about family just as much - if not more - as boxing; and, in that sense, it accomplishes its goal because Micky often gets overshadowed by the rest of the story. Whether that's because of Wahlberg's patented whispering portrayal or not I can't say, but the fact remains that The Fighter allows the costar and the subplot to take center stage.
The biggest downfall of any sports movie is a lack of authenticity. Watching Tim Robbins rag arm performance in Bull Durham just about ruined the film. The same could to said of Omar Epps as an NBA player in Love & Basketball - what is he, 5'9"? In that light, I'd give The Fighter a solid 8 out of 10 on the believability scale. Bale jukes and bobs throughout the entire movie - possibly more crack addiction related than anything - and Wahlberg trudges forward stoically with disregard for his face in hopes of landing one big body blow. As an avid boxing fan, however, the left hook, left hook, left uppercut, left uppercut combination was just a little too preposterous to dismiss. The rest, however, the sparring, the glove work, the patternless movements from light-on-his-feet Dicky, it's all genuine. The only other issue I had with the film was that the three most famous fights of Ward's career - the epic war against Gatti - are left out of the story. Those fights define Ward more than anything else, and would have served as a perfect reinforcement of the metaphorical hard-nosed demeanor expressed throughout the movie.
Aside from a collection of the ugliest actresses ever assembled on screen - portraying Micky's sisters - the cast is fabulous. Once again Bale suffers for his career, dropping almost as much weight as he did in The Machinist. Even a cameo by Sugar Ray Leonard rings true, as he comes off as friendly but also a bit aloof.
I don't know if I put it above Rocky IV or Raging Bull historically, but the solid one-two punch from Wahlberg and Bale are enough to setup most audiences for the triumphant body blow of a finale.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2011
A movie that finally proves feel good sports movies about under dogs don't have to be clean, campy, and follow the same outlines as all the rest. The fighter is a real world gritty movie about a boxer who has to do as much fighting outside the ring as in to prove himself.
Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a down on his luck man from Lowell Mass. Working construction he begins to plan a come back as a boxer. Trained largely by a family friend and his junkie brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), he begins to talk up his come back around town. When Ward's come back doesn't go as planned he nearly gives up on his dream until his new girlfriend Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams) fills the role of a supportive, loving person in his life that no one has really stepped into before. Ward is constantly in his brother's shadow and it is clear who the family favorite is. Ward's emotional battle out of the ring is tougher than the physical trials he endures during his fights.
The Fighter is a great movie that blends family, boxing, drama, and comedy perfectly. It is clear this movie always had a strong script and David O. Russell did a phenomenal job directing but the cast really brings it to the next level. Wahlberg and Bale have excellent chemistry on screen. Adams projects a strong and independent woman who isn't afraid to stare down Ward's seven sisters or his over bearing mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo). There is no weak link in the cast and choosing one that stands above the rest isn't easy. An amazing cast like this can carry any average movie but The Fighter is something more.
The Fighter is still an underdog story but it doesn't seem to be the same fill-in-the-blank as every other sports movie that gets churned out. The town of Lowell Mass is brought to life by the vibrant and real characters. It is not a cookie-cutter suburbia or a friendly town that holds Ward on their shoulders like in the sequel to the Rocky movies. Ward is a flawed character and his family is worse. These flaws make them characters and not just players in the game. Plenty of scenes develop the characters, the town, and the struggle that Ward had to face everyday without being over bearing or taking anything away from the plot.
An amazing story with real characters this movie isn't just for boxing fans. The sport is Ward's ambition but the fight the title refers to involves every aspect of his life.