Nominated for Seven Oscars, a Fact-Based Film About a Colorful Family
Nominated for Best Picture and six other Academy Awards, The Fighter (2010) is a well-acted, well-crafted, old-fashioned, feel-good entertainment that has humor and heart. If for no other reason, the movie should be seen for the Oscar-winning performances of Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. But there is also another very good performance, that of lead actor Mark Wahlberg.
The film tells a Hollywoodized version of the story of real-life professional boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg), a junior welterweight who won 38 bouts and lost 13. But the most memorable characters are Micky's half brother Dicky Eklund (Bale) and their mom Alice (Leo), who also has seven daughters, some named Ward, others named Eklund. It's the portrait of the loving, but contentious working-class Ward-Eklund clan that makes The Fighter interesting.
Beginning in 1993, the story takes place in Lowell, Mass., and the movie captures the gritty feel of a blue-collar town economically devastated by globalization. Micky is trained by the crack-addicted Dicky and incompetently managed by Alice, and his boxing career is not going well. Then Micky begins to date Charlene (Amy Adams in an Oscar-nominated performance), a local bartender, and he comes to realize he needs to make some painful changes.
Of course the movie contains training and boxing sequences, but these are skillfully integrated into the story, and Mark Wahlberg is convincing as a prizefighter. And the soundtrack contains classic rock, including songs by Hall and Oates, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones.
The DVD containing The Fighter provides only two bonus materials: a 30-minute making-of documentary and a feature-length audio commentary by director David O. Russell.
If you enjoyed the feature film, it's worth watching "The Warrior's Code: Filming The Fighter" to see the real-life half brothers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. There are also some interesting Ward-Eklund family photos, and you'll meet George Ward, Micky's father. Another person featured in the documentary is Mickey O'Keefe, a real-life Lowell policeman who plays himself in the movie (and blends in seamlessly with the professional actors). Finally, the documentary has a little footage of Sugar Ray Leonard, who appears briefly in the film, horsing around on the set.
If you want to learn a wealth of detail about The Fighter, listen to the director's audio commentary by David O. Russell. He talks about shooting on location in Lowell and mentions trying to capture the town's "sweaty reality." He says the movie was shot in 33 days, with three of those days being used to film the fight scenes. He discusses how shots were done, and he identifies a large number of the supporting actors. He names the real-life documentary that HBO made about Dicky as High on Crack Street (1995). Also, Russell says that in real life Dicky served eight years in prison, but admits that time is drastically compressed in the film for dramatic purposes.
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Total Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language Throughout, Drug Content, Some Violence and Sexuality