The Fighter is a well made, entertaining and genuinely uplifting story that I never want to watch again. Despite the presence of Amy Adams nipples.
Look that’s not to say this is Requiem For A Dream or something, but as a portrait of familial masochism, sadism and Honky Minstrelsy, it feels like a Todd Solonz movie. After a few pints at the pub afterwards my friend posited that the only reason the film wasn’t called “The Horrible C--ts of Lowell” is that that would make it sound like the worst porno ever. The film has what has to me the most dreadful cast of cackling hyena like she devil sub humans this side of Punch Drunk Love.
To say that The Fighter plays to Mark Wahlberg’s strength’s is a vast understatement. The role is practically tailor made for him and its easy to see why he’s fought so long and so hard to get the film made. The story of “Irish” Mickey Ward, a boxer who created a late in career comeback when he escaped the influence of his horrible self serving family of hateful shrews. Their blind spot favoritism to Ward’s crack addicted “almost was” brother Dicky Englund, having turned Ward’s career into one long painful missed opportunity.
Though he far too often coasts on his machismo’s Wahlberg’s always at his best when his roles tap into the mush mouthed little kid that never seems far below the surface. His two skill sets blend beautifully with Ward. No matter how much of an intimidating physical presence he is in the ring, outside of it he takes punishment with such flinching defensivelessness that it’s tough to watch. And it’s that real pain you see Wahlberg feel that keeps his mother’s (and his exwife’s and his sister’s) performances from sailing into the land of harmless caricature. These are the blows you that Ward can’t shake off.
As in life, Bale is afforded the showier role and he runs with it. For far too long Bale’s been stuck playing Batman in every role. But he brings such livewire energy to the part of Dicky Eckland so much charisma that you can actually understand why Ward sticks by him past the point of all logic. There’s a part here about two thirds into the movie where Dicky hits absolute bottom in spectacular fashion. It’s a scene about as clichéd as they come, but Bale sells it with such force that it feels like the first time.
A deglammed Amy Adams shows up and shows no matter how deglammed she gets she remains one of the most luminous actresses working today. Melissa Leo plays the boy’s controlling mother leading a Greek chorus of terrible sisters. Leo’s the one who provides the film with it’s majority of flinch enducing moments, but to her credit tries to make her a character a character. And there are a few moments most pertaining to how deep her denial over her eldest son’s addiction goes where she almost succeeds. Almost.
David O. Russell was always my least favorite of the “Class of ’99.” He oversells the neighborhood flavor, compare the showy opening tracking shot full of “How’s yur mutha?” posturing to Ben Affleck’s unblinking familiarity in The Town. But otherwise makes some very interesting choices, including shooting the fights in vintage HBO film stock. And the man as always has impeccable taste with music and montage. And though I won’t be in a hurry to watch it again I think it’s a fine film. Probably the most entertaining to make me squirm for the majority of its runtime.