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Treeview: The Fighter

The Fighter
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

It’s been a long time since I have sat through a boxing movie I actually enjoyed, the last one being either Rocky IV or Diggstown. I enjoyed watching The Fighter but calling it a “boxing movie” may be a bit of a stretch.

The Fighter is based on the true story of welterweight boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and the ups and downs of his career in the early 90’s. Ward is the younger half brother of Dicky Ecklund (Cristian Bale) who years earlier went ten rounds with Sugar Ray Leonard, but has since become a crackhead. Micky is constantly fighting to get out from under the shadow of his trainer/big brother who is known locally as “The Pride of Lowell” (as in their hometown in Massachussets). Nobody really takes Ward seriously in his camp (including his mother/manager) and all seem to be focused on his brothers highly unlikely comeback.

This is a great film, but don’t go in expecting a straight up boxing movie. The Fighter is really more of a character study about addiction and the personal/not so professional relationships within Ward’s life. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Christian Bale get an Oscar for his role, he is one of the most convincing crackheads I’ve ever seen on camera. I once was a huge fan of Christian Bale but after starring in blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Terminator: Salvation, I forgot that this dude has some serious acting chops. Playing Batman and John Connor really doesn’t give him the chance to shine like he does as Dicky Ecklund. The movie would’ve gained a lot by centering on Bale who really stole the show in his limited screentime.

Marky Mark did a good job as the lead character but I think he’s suffering from “Nicholas Cage Syndrome”, whose symptoms include playing the same guy in every movie. So instead of Wahlberg as Micky Ward, you get Mark Wahlberg mid 90’s boxer edition. The only time I can think of where Wahlberg impressed me with his acting was in The Departed.

Aside from Christian Bale having too little screen time and there being a shortage of  boxing, the film is damn near perfect. There was a great supporting cast including Ward’s seven butt ugly sisters (one of whom is played by Conan O’ Brien’s sister) and his father played by the underrated Jack McGee (who I’ve missed seeing on screen since his departure from Rescue Me). Amy Adams was surprisingly good playing the tough as nails love interest of Micky and provides some of the films funniest lines. The film even had some really great music in it which included “Strip My Mind” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Glory and Consequence” from Ben Harper.

Final Verdict: If you want to see a really good movie with some boxing, go see The Fighter. If you want to see a boxing movie, go rent Rocky IV. B+

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