Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Short Attention Span Review: The Fighter (2010)

Short Attention Span Review: The Fighter (2010)

First off, the thing with rating boxing movies is the depth of the field.  If you set out to make a great volleyball film, the world is yours.  If you set out to go toe to toe with Rocky or Raging Bull, . . . well, things could get ugly.  Thankfully, while The Fighter is vastly inferior to the great boxing flicks of yesteryear, it mostly stands as a drama with a landmark performance anchoring it.  Unfortunately, those great boxing flicks of yesteryear may have been more reliant on boxing, but they were also heavy on the drama, and with The Fighter that landmark performance doesn't belong to the leading man.  The end result is a bit off as a result, though the movie is surely entertaining and crafty.  The soundtrack is great and the dysfunctional family that the story revolves around offer up a steady stream of memorable moments.  The entire cast is game, and de facto star Mark Wahlberg is solid as "Irish" Mickey Ward.  This humble underdog's rise to fame is the backbone for David O'Russell's fast-paced chronicle of the pugilist brothers who put Lowell, Massachusetts on the map.  The other brother in this equation is Dicky Eklund, played to sheer perfection here by Christian Bale.  Yes, Ward is the up-and-comer whose quest for glory is on center stage, but it is Eklund the drug-addicted has-been who makes The Fighter worth watching.  Bale disappears into his role (as he frequently does) and his startlingly authentic portrayal of Eklund is tragic, wildly entertaining, and ultimately incredibly uplifting.  Wahlberg never falters in a less interesting role, but while watching The Fighter I couldn't help but think that it would have soared far higher if it was centered on Bale's Dicky Eklund instead.  As for the boxing bits--well, they're not bad, but we've seen far better.  In the end, we're supposed to be thoroughly impressed when Mickey's hand is finally raised, but Dicky's antics and his gut-wrenching battle with addiction are far more gripping.

Final Grade: B-

Mark Wahlberg may get top billing, but this is Christian Bale's show from start to finish.

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