The Fighter (David O. Russell, 2010)


Mark Wahlberg (Micky Ward), Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund), Amy Adams (Charlene Fleming), Melissa Leo (Alice Ward). Screenplay by Eric Johnson, Paul Tamasy and Scott Silver. Directed by David O. Russell. Rating: 15. Running time: 115 minutes.

I feel no shame in declaring The Fighter a pleasant surprise: an albeit predictable boxing film, but also one that entertains without feeling cliché in the most overdone of genres. A love of Raging Bull may make a story about family tensions underlying life in the ring seem like old ground, but Russell is wise in steering away from any attempts to imitate the tragedy in Scorsese’s masterpiece. Ward, the boxer that is the subject here, has relationship problems just as Jake LaMotta did, but never does he reach the peaks of self-destruction that plagued the latter. That role instead falls to his brother: also an ex-boxer, but now a crack addict and basket case, embodied quite outrageously by Christian Bale. His roles in The Prestige, Batman Begins and Public Enemies may be subdued, but here he lets rip quite magnificently. He plays Dicky Eklund like Randall MacMurphy with a twist, and a well-deserved Oscar inevitably awaits.

He is the source and focal point of the film’s drama: the unreliable but absolutely necessary brother and trainer; the cause of so much tension as well as success. The Fighter is, indeed, all about boxing whilst seldom resorting to footage of actual fights. It is instead interested in the age-old problem of how people manage their dual role of being a supporter of a sportsman and also a blood relation through and through. The script is razor sharp and suitably American for this setting of Massachusetts suburbia, as is the rock and roll soundtrack. We’re provided both with moments of drama and amusement, always underscored by top acting. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been privileged to say this now, but once more, The Fighter delivers a pretty decent reward to its viewers, just like all the other major award nominees battling it out this year.

One Response to “The Fighter (David O. Russell, 2010)”

  1. 1 Academy awards: what will win and what should. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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