I had three rather large concerns walking into the preview screening of director David O. Russell’s The Fighter. Firstly I dislike Christian Bale, secondly I am not a fan of Mark Wahlberg and lastly I hate boxing films. I put all of these aside, however, and tried not to learn anything about the film before the preview. I, afterwards, walked out of the screening feeling pleasantly surprised.
The Fighter is about the boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his early life leading up to his world welterweight title. Thrown in the mix is his relationship with his half-brother Dicky (Bale), a drug fuelled ex-boxer, and his large family that is ruled by his mother/manager (Melissa Leo). Although the film is about boxing most of the fighting actually occurs outside the ring between brothers, family and in which direction Micky’s career should go.
…the fight, although the lynchpin to the narrative, is the subplot to a powerful biographic film
Wahlberg sits quite perfectly into his role as the submissive brother who has learned all from his older Brother, but it’s this idolism that spurns the story on as the tension grows between them: Dicky’s drug addiction gets worse and Micky’s family, still convinced that Dicky knows best, think they know what is right for him. Only when Micky gets a new girlfriend in Charlene (Amy Adams) and Dicky is sent to prison does Micky strike out on his own, and forge a name for himself.
The story benefits from having a talented cast with strong female leads, something not seen in previous boxing movies.
With the Rocky films firmly cemented in a film fan’s psyche, it is interesting to see a film where boxing is completely overshadowed by family relationships. It is the stylised camera work and realistic use of documentary footage, coupled with unnerving social problems that make the film moving, captivating and relatable.
I’m not saying I’m converted to these kind of films, but I feel that this one had a profound effect on me because of the incredible family dynamic. The use of boxing matches is used to heighten the emotional conflicts: the fight, although the lynchpin to the narrative, is the subplot to a powerful biographic film.
Christian Bale is in my good books and Mark Wahlberg is now a firm favourite (as long as I remember to never watch the remake of Planet of the Apes, again).