Similar to films like “Raging Bull,” “Rocky” and “Cinderella Man,” boxing movies have a talent for making you cringe with every blow, crack and blood spatter. The Fighter received its recognition not only in the box office and The Golden Globes but it also manages to send a chill down your spine.
Being as realistic as this film is, and based on the life of Micky Ward, it categorizes Mark Wahlberg as a higher class actor. Similar to what “Raging Bull” did to Robert DeNiro’s career, the already-idolized Wahlberg has proved his worth in the film industry.
We have seen him as the smooth talking con man in “The Italian Job,” to a jerk cop with a bad comb-over in “The Departed,” and now a fighter torn between his career, his girlfriend and his family.
Having that similar “Bostony,” working-class feel as “The departed,” “Mystic River” and “The Town,” the film emits that neighborhood closeness; the Mafia style family devotion, the blue-collar Irish look, the heavy drinking, drug use and intense amounts of violence.
Although the close-knit, I-got-your-back mentality seems like a good thing, it acts as a double-edged sword in “The fighter.” Acting more like a hindrance rather than a close family, the small-minded, uneducated mindset is just crammed throughout this film.
“She thinks she’s above everyone because she been to fucking college”
As a child in a small Massachusetts community, Micky Ward acquired all his fighting knowledge and experience from his brother, Dicky (Academy Award winner Christian Bale). As the film opens we are introduced to the character of Dicky. The first impression of this character is that he’s troubled.
If not the most cocky character I have seen, Dicky is a former boxing champion and winner of a fight against Sugar Ray Leonard. What Dicky fails to understand, similar to the Giants versus The Patriots in the 2007 Super bowl, is that he is not renown for his win, but for the simple fact that the undefeated Sugar Ray lost. Apart from his ego Dicky is also addicted to crack, and the film only shows him sinking lower in the addiction.
Apart from Dicky’s problems, his brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) has his own set of issues. Under the helm of Dicky, Micky is seen time after time getting ‘stomped on’ in the ring. Assuming that his lack of direction is the problem, Micky is forced to make a crucial decision; should he leave his problematic brother and excessively dramatic family to train with the elites in Las Vegas or should he continue to be fist fodder under his brothers often clouded direction.
If the problem is Dicky, is it wrong to think that since he is the town hero, he might have his own agenda in mind? Does he play his brother, like that crack pipe, to keep his hero reputation? We get a better idea as to Dicky’s intentions as the story progresses. Going from an HBO special on his fighting career, further enhancing his fame, to an HBO special on the life of a crack addict.
Micky is not only bogged down by his brother, but the lack of his families aspiration prevents him from showing his true colors. Similar to a virus, with Micky as the host, his family (mother in particular) acts like the members of Jersey Shore. They are constantly in a drug-induced state and they are afraid of Micky being the only successful person in the family.
Fed up with the typical low-class family drama and Dicky’s recent imprisonment, Micky stops boxing and attempts to live an ordinary life. Accompanied by his uplifting girlfriend (Amy Adams), Micky must do what he wants to do, not what his family or his brother want him to do.
A good chunk of the second half plays more as an episode of cops mixed with True Life: crack addiction. It is here where Micky realizes that boxing is his call and decides to do it under new direction. Similar to the scenes in Rocky, we see Micky jogging and doing his various exercises.
Minus the egg yolks and Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” theme, the last half of the film is a mirror image of “Rocky IV” and the more recent, “Warrior.” I must say that the acting was incredible in this film. In the rolling credits scene at the end, director David O. Russell (“I Heart Huckabees”) shows what the real Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund – Wahlberg and Bale nailed it.