“The Fighter” – 2010. Dir. David O. Russell

With Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Mickey O’Keefe with Jack McGee and Melissa Leo


Executive Produced by Darren Aronofsky

“Mickey has a chance to do something that I never did and he needs me.” – Dickie (Christian Bale)

I didn’t have high expectations for “The Fighter”, I had seen that Christian Bale was picking up almost every Best Supporting Actor award in almost every film critics circle, and I thought that we he was probably really good (when isn’t he?) but a part of me thought that this was because Bale was long overdue.

This film is a fact-based story of Mickey “The Irish” Ward (Wahlberg) who was an aging armature boxer who was being trained by his crack addicted once semi-famous boxer brother Dickie Eklund (Bale) and a police sergeant Mickey O’Keefe (who plays himself) and managed by his mother Alice (Melissa Leo). Mickey is a construction worker who has never given his dream of becoming a professional boxer up.

Mickey doesn’t seem to have a proper direction or guide. While Dickie’s knowledge of boxing, and boxing strategy is vast, the fact that Dickie is a crackhead comes in the way of Mickey pursuing his dream. Alice tries to set her son up with matches, and tries her best for Mickey, she just can’t quiet cut it as Mickey’s manager, and she relies too much on Dickie’s input – not Mickey’s.

It isn’t until Mickey meets a bartender Charlene (Adams), that he begins to find his center; he finds the undying support that lacks from his mother and brother. “The Fighter” is not only a wonderfully executed inspirational story – it also brings the “sports” film genre back with style and perfect execution.

This film is astounding on so many different levels. Aside from the cliché – yet inspiring story – the film has a perfect, and I mean perfect core cast. While watching Mickey fight and struggle and be pushed and pulled by Charlene, Alice and Dickie – its astounding to watch Wahlberg display his range and talent as an actor; Wahlberg delivers his heart and soul in this film, marking this his finest performance.

Melissa Leo is incredible as the matriarch of the Ward/Eklund clan (that also includes seven sisters). She plays the ultimate bitch character that you love to hate and hate to love. There are moments in the film where she will drive you insane. As an only child, I could only imagine a bigger family with many siblings, and how each family has their “favorite” child. In the Ward/Eklund clan, the favorite is Dickie. Leo gives such a great performance in this film; I can’t imagine anyone beating her for Best Supporting Actress.

Amy Adams shows us a different side of her. In this film she plays the slightly trashy, foul mouthed and loosely dressed Charlene. She gives a wonderful performance too. Adams is very brave to take on this role (much like Anne Hathaway was in “Brokeback Mountain” and “Rachel Getting Married”), she’s notably known for playing the innocent good girl, but in this film she leaves nothing behind, and she gives an Academy Award winning performance as well.

As for Christian Bale…WOW. Look, I saw “The King’s Speech” right before seeing this film, and I was all about Geoffrey Rush winning for the film, he’s amazing, Rush was excellent and even though I knew Bale was winning all these Critics awards, I couldn’t imagine Bale being better than Rush. I was wrong. Bale gives one of the most carefully crafter and heartbreaking performances I’ve seen.

Bale is a tour-de-force always. Every single role he takes on, he transforms himself into the character. He has the unique ability to dissolve into his characters – the same ability that Daniel Day-Lewis has. Bale lost all the weight he had previously put on for “The Dark Knight” to fit into the slinky and gaunt crack addicted frame of Dickie. He didn’t transform his body as much as he did for “The Machinist”, but it’s pretty damn close.

While the rest of the performers in the film are excellent – even boarding amazing – Bale is the one to marvel in this film. Every single movement, facial expression and line of dialogue delivered by Bale is an incredible showboat of a performance of one of the best method actors working today. There is no way he can’t win Best Supporting Actor. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be one of the biggest Academy crimes ever committed.

Bale physically immersed himself so deeply, altering his hair, altering his teeth – it’s nothing less than complete dedication to his craft. He is one of the finest actors of any generation of any era of film. This guy carefully picks his roles so carefully; it’s something to be admired.

The transformation of Christina Bale is a transformation that reminds me much of a younger Robert De Niro, especially thinking of her performances in “Raging Bull” and “Cape Fear” and I would even go as so far to say this is comparable to Brando’s transformation in “The Godfather”.

This film is not only one of the most well acted films of the year, and one of the best films of the year – it’s also the greatest boxing film ever made. Yes, it’s better than “The Champ”, “Million Dollar Baby”, and “Rocky” and yes, even “Raging Bull”.

Rating: 10/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

5 thoughts on ““The Fighter” – 2010. Dir. David O. Russell”

  1. Happy you loved it Frank! Definitely one of the top movies of 2010 for me as well and it’s a joy to see Christian Bale deliver a mesmerizing performance such as his. Dude is a lock for the Oscar this upcoming February I hope.

  2. Mate, there’s no way this film is the best boxing movie ever!
    I totally agree that Bale is GREAT to watch – the rhythm of his movements, his face, it’s like the music of ‘cocaine-addled charisma’ (and Amy Adams is awesome as well, so sexy in that Lowell accent)
    But where are the speeches and intimate scenes of dialogue or quiet moments. When I think of Raging Bull – i think of the mirror at the end, when the bloated De Niro delivers an ironic speech: iconic.
    But hey, it’s always good to have a debate about movies, and you are welcome to disagree with my own film review of The Fighter (which just came out in the UK), over at http://orangelegfilms.wordpress.com/

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