Here’s my take on The Fighter. This effort has been a major focus for its star and chief proponent Mark Wahlberg. He’d apparently been working to get this out for several years.
The movie is a bit of a biopic on the life of two boxing brothers and their quirky family in Lowell, Massachusetts. The older step-brother, Dicky Ecklund—played exceptionally by a stunningly thin Christian Bale, leads a troubled life. In the past he was an up and coming boxer whose penultimate moment was his bout with legendary champion Sugar Ray Leonard (who has a very bit part in the film). Dicky never misses an opportunity to remind everyone that he knocked down the champ. However, his life then spiraled out of control with crack doing much of the driving.
Dicky’s younger brother Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is still on the rise but has been stagnating of late. His team is all about family and friends and Dicky, along with his baggage is still Micky’s chief trainer. Added to this is their well-meaning but ultimately self-serving and limited mother who manages Micky’s career.
Micky seems unable to see the anchor his own family has become for him until he meets a barkeep played by the always-dependable Amy Adams.
The story proceeds to go down a path we’re all sure is obvious. Micky, with the help of his loving partner, sees the light, dumps the negativity surrounding him and goes on to fame and fortune. However, the story then goes in another direction entirely and its then that it fails the audience.
The first problem is that the writers appeared to not have any clue who the main focus of the film is. For much of the film we feel it’s surely Dicky. Then we’re pretty sure it’s their mother. Then we think it might be Micky’s girlfriend. We get some hints (or more) at back story for each of them only for the film to move away again. When it finally settles on Micky we simply don’t have enough invested in his character to buy into the choices he makes. Why he choose those options we can, at best, only guess at. His own explanations are rather trite and not very convincing.
The movie does have a few key fight scenes but this isn’t Rocky. No one’s going to be standing in the aisles yelling “Knock him out!”
The acting was top-notch in virtually every corner of this film. Bale is an obvious stand-out but he had to really work overtime to stand above all the rest. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see major nominations here.
Sadly, the ending was, for me, extremely disappointing. It’s as if the writers misplaced the last chapter of the story and, in its place, thought it’d be fine to just put a graphic up to stand in for it. Just as we finally get to experience more of Micky the film closes. Thankfully the credits show us footage of the actual Ward brothers and you realize just how accurate the performances were.