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"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.
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on December 16, 2010
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.
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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.
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on September 19, 2011
Great movie about two brothers growing up in Boston. Both are boxers with lots of talent. There are obstacles they both have to overcome. First of all, one is addicted to drugs and that leads him to endless trouble. The younger brother is insecure and easy to sway from people in his suroundings: his mother, brother, girlfriend, so called business managers.

I loved the fact that film shows working class family struggling to cash in on only thing they have - a talented boxer and his brother who acts as his coach. Everyone is in it for the money, except perhaps Charlene, a girlfriend, college drop out and outcast from this working class town. Charlene sees in her boyfriend a potential that should not go wasted and with fierce love she feels for him, she will do whatever it takes to protect his best interests even if it means setting up boundaries with his family.

Wonderful performances from the entire cast. I truly enjoyed this movie.
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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.
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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.
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on December 18, 2014
Mark Wahlberg made the movie happen, and then played the focusing maypole in the festival - around which danced various nymphs and satyrs. The queen of the nymphs and the baddest satyr both won academy awards. The rest of the cast wasn't far behind.

It appears that Wahlberg will make one substantial movie after another to the end of his career without winning an academy award - while others in the cast do. Well they owe it to him - he provides the structure of the world they shine in. Eventually, the Academy will award him for his body of work, and it will be well deserved.

The Fighter is a docu-drama par excellence - emotionally chaotic, touching, gritty, and satisfying. Christian Bale buries himself so far into his character, he almost becomes a caricature - but not quite. The Greek chorus of sisters ought to be considered as one actor, and also deserves an academy award. Melissa Leo - aka: The Queen of the Night/Wahlberg's mother - also takes her role to the edge of caricature, but the Academy didn't make a mistake, she redeems her performance in spades.

Mickey Ward's fights can be seen on YouTube - watch them.

Not a date movie unless your date is Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming/Wahlberg's girlfriend. Adams physical parts add up to 'looks pretty nice in the high school annual,' which means her spirit, her intellect must be of gigantic proportions.
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on June 23, 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
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on September 30, 2011
Its a pretty good movie. To me the most impressive thing is the acting of Christian Bale. If you are familar with him, he speaks with a very heavy british accent. But in this movie, you would swear hes native from Boston. I love his character. A washed-up has-been boxer who is now a lowly depraved crack addict. His acting is perfect to me. The movie itself is pretty good, only a little slow at times. There arent actually many fight scenes but the ones there are, are good. Its very Rocky-like. Especially the final climactic fight scene, its very energizing.
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on April 27, 2016
I'm a little bit awed by how much I enjoyed this movie. I was inspired to watch it after taking in the first Ward vs. Gatti fight and becoming an instant Micky fan. I expected all the usual boxing movie fare – the cliches, the unrealistic fight scenes, overly-elaborated love stories... Instead, I found unbelievably great acting, fight scenes that mirror the real-world bouts (I kept sneaking over to YouTube to check) compelling family dynamics and a romance on the side that was not too much, not too little, but just right. If there are flaws here, you really have to hunt for them. For 90 minutes, you're walking the dusty, beer-soaked streets of Lowell with Micky and Dickey or you're in the ring hoping that Ward can pull of his head-body, head-body magic just one more time. This is what a boxing movie should feel like. The music alone will keep you dancing and shadow boxing all night long. Go Micky. For that matter, go Dickey, go Charlene and go Lowell.
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