Film Review: The Fighter

The Fighter is set in 1993, a time when few would have believed Marky Mark’s career would have longevity, let alone that he would deliver award-worthy performances. Nonetheless, Mark Wahlberg’s acting is not even the highlight of The Fighter, a film that boasts great writing and superlative performances.

A low-level boxer dreaming of success, Mickey Ward is always in his brother Dickie Eklund’s shadow. A former boxer with a drug addiction, Dickie thinks he is going to make a comeback. However, it is Mickey’s career that is on the up, and his older brother has a significant part to play…

Based on the true story of Mickey Ward’s rise to success, The Fighter is an incredibly engaging movie. Although it is a story about boxing, the film primarily focuses on the very personal story behind the sportsman. The Fighter is more concerned with relationship dynamics than accounting Mickey’s triumphs. It is this that give the film its heart, and compels the audience to root for Mickey Ward during the matches.

Screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson infuse the narrative with both emotion and comedy. The dialogue is fantastic; it generates a surprising amount of humour. The Fighter is so effective because it easily flits between poignancy and absurdity. A heartfelt conversation between the two brothers can be quickly followed by some humorous interaction between Alice and her daughters, for example.

David O. Russell directs The Fighter with aplomb. The film never really feels like it is building in momentum; it feels like an exploration of the characters’ lives rather than a path to a big climax. The film may have dragged in another director’s hands, but Russell crafts his characters with care and attention. He depicts a multi-faceted group who all have Mickey’s best interests at heart, despite some of their actions.

What is most interesting about the visual style of the film is the use of television-style footage. At the beginning of the film, a camera crew follows Dickie around for a documentary. This is a great introduction to the characters, succinctly exhibiting how each of the brothers are treated. The boxing matches also employ this televisual appearance, which gives these scenes a heightened sense of realism. The fights do look like actual boxing matches; the violence of these bouts is more acute as a result.

Mark Wahlberg is brilliant as Mickey. Wahlberg offers a quiet, composed performance, which contrasts well with Christian Bale’s larger than life Dickie. Bale is fantastic as the drug-addled former boxer, giving one of his best performances to date. Melissa Leo is excellent as Alice Ward, often stealing scenes with her outlandish persona. Perfomances are great all round and the casting is on point, particularly with Amy Adams as Charlene and Alice’s daughters.

Falling somewhere between Raging Bull and Rocky in terms of tone, The Fighter is a very enjoyable film. Highly recommended viewing.

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