Saturday, January 22, 2011


Yet another inspirational true story, "The Fighter" tells the story of junior welterweight boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward's rise to fame, aided by his drug-addict brother and former contender, Dicky Ecklund. David O. Russel, of "Three Kings" fame, directs this tale of sports and redemption with skill, and there is plenty to enjoy, but it still feels like revisited territory for the audience.

The technique cannot be faulted here. Russel has few movies under his belt, but there is no denying he's a talented director whose movies bear a certain uniqueness. "The Fighter" seems like a surprising entry in his resume, because, at least at first glance, it seems like a conventional story. You soon find out that's not the case, which is why Russel finds the room to operate beyond the conventions of the sports drama genre for the most part, which is how the movie stays above average.

It's the dynamic between Mickey and his dysfunctional family that separates this movie from others of its kind. His family is the team in his corner. He's trained by his brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), who always brags about how he once knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard, but is now an unreliable drug addict, and is badly managed by his mother (Mellisa Leo). After losing a fight set up with a mismatched opponent, he considers giving up boxing, but when Charlene (Amy Adams) enters his life, he finds new strength to keep fighting, and balance the family issues, all leading to the typical sports drama finale we all know and love.

The interactions between the characters keep this movie from falling flat on its face, not the boxing scenes, particularly since there's such a talented ensemble cast at work. I am very tempted to say Christian Bale was a show stealer, but it would not be fair to his colleagues, who do an equally great job of portraying their characters. He will probably be a sure bet for every award this year, but everyone involved deserves fair credit.

Also unique is the way the fighting sequences are handled. The director opted for a TV broadcast style of filming which adds welcomed realism to the sequences. As usual for the genre, the last fight of the movie is played for maximum dramatic effect, and it works as intended, but you can foresee how the story ends, because we've seen it before in other rising underdog movies. It's not that these stories aren't worthy of  screen time, it's just that they get too predictable for the cinematic medium. In the end, though, David O. Russel and the cast find the means to tell an engaging story that rings a little too familiar at times, but is worth seeing.

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