The Fighter 
Directors: David O. Russell
In a year where real life stories adapted to films reign supreme, The Fighter belongs near the top of the list. Based on the true story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, director David O. Russell’s latest work is so much more than just a boxing movie. Micky (Mark Wahlberg) is a once-promising, but currently struggling, boxer who is frequently stuck in the shadows of his older brother and local legend, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Dicky’s claim to fame is that he once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, and although his career was quickly derailed due to crack abuse (a problem he continues with throughout the movie), he is still respected in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. In essence, this movie is just as much about Dicky as it is Micky, and in fact the entire family is front and center throughout this. The matriarch of the family, Alice (Melissa Leo), is proud of her boys, and she acts as their manager as well. She has a barrage of daughters who will back her up no matter what she does, for better or for worse. When Micky gets a new girlfriend (Amy Adams) who is not afraid to infiltrate this hardheaded family, all hell breaks loose and this shakes the very foundation this clan has always been based on.
So, although some people might be quick to dismiss this as just another boxing movie, it is clearly much more than that. There is a strong overlying portrait of just how important family is, especially in tight-knit groups such as the Wards. Although Micky starts to believe he can succeed with different management and training, he has a hard time leaving his family behind. The Fighter excels at showing the hardships of finally leaving the nest.
Perhaps what I loved the most about The Fighter was its strong attention to detail. I felt like I was right there in the middle of Lowell in the 1990’s, and although at times it wasn’t comfortable, Russell really nailed the life of the lower class, especially the crack house that Dicky often frequented. I also loved how when there was actual boxing, it didn’t feel like your standard Hollywood bullshit. Instead, the old school HBO-style cameras were used to make it look like these were real pay-per-view bouts, and that is just really cool.
Of course, much of the hype and praise about The Fighter is because of its acting, and yeah, the movie wouldn’t be half as good without its stellar cast. Christian Bale continues to impress with his wide variety of roles, this time shedding a bunch of weight in order to play the crackhead boxer, in a respectfully energetic performance. Mark Wahlberg is solid in the lead role, never really taking the next step but still getting the job done admirably. The two main women in the movie, Adams and Leo, are fiery gals who don’t take shit from anyone. Both deliver outstanding performances, especially Adams who stepped out from her shell and played a much “dirtier” character than she has done in the past. All but Wahlberg received Oscar nominations for their work in this film, and all are certainly deserved.
If I were to have one problem with the movie, it would be its questionable soundtrack. While Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and others were effectively played, The Heavy’s “How Do You Like Me Now” was used too often for its own good. Even still, that is a minor fault in an otherwise great film.
I had heard good things about The Fighter beforehand, but I can safely say that the movie exceeded any expectations I had for it. With an outstanding cast, excellent attention to detail, and some intense fight scenes, I have no reservations about putting this up there amongst the greatest sports movies. Highly recommended.