Monday, January 17, 2011


The Fighter is a great movie and I wasn't expecting it. It's director David O. Russell's most sustained and successful film, with a great story wrapped in a true indie spirit, shot in the streets and gyms and crack dens of Lowell, Massachusetts.

It's based on the true story of a great boxer, Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), who's a solid guy in every sense, but he's 31 and has his last shot to be more than a stepping-stone. His half-brother, an ex-boxer named Dickey Eklund is his trainer, but he's in it for the crack money. His mother is his manager, and she's toxic as well. In the trailer it looked like Christian Bale's astonishing performance as Dickey might overturn the narrative ship, but it's actually just an extremely sharp and powerful reflecting subplot, particularly during a point where the story bifurcates, and when it reunites it's with a vengeance.

As much as its a boxing movie, it's about family, asking what do you owe your fellow family members, and what do they owe you. Melissa Leo's transformation in her role as the mother is a departure from anything I've seen her do before, the hair and outfits and the shoes, but also the incredible specificity she achieves in how she so expertly applies guilt, shame and loyalty in dealing not just with her two sons but her seven heinous daughters as well.

Amy Adams is the other big name in the movie, has a notable upgrade on the noble girlfriend role, and she gets Lowell, gets to curse, and actually has an impact on the story. She and Wahlberg make a convincing couple in their love scenes together, very sweet. It's a tribute to Wahlberg's success here as a leading man that all those around him are getting accolades, while he holds down the fort with quiet decency and a body he trained for four years to play the role.

Wahlberg evidently held the movie together over a long gestation as well. It makes sense for him to go back to Massachusetts, as he did so well in The Departed. When you see the real Micky and Dickey for a few moments at the end of the movie, it all makes sense.

These two guys appear to be exactly who they are in the movie. Two inseparable brothers, one who's silent and steady, the other who can't shut his mouth.

True love.


C.J. Minster said...

Totally agree. You should check out David O. Russell on The Treatment:

Mark Netter said...

Thanks for the tip, C.J.!