The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter (2010) — I’m sure one day a movie will come along that doesn’t depict eastern Massachusettes as a bitter hellscape paved with broken dreams, but in the meantime the ones that do are pretty damn good.  The Fighter (set in Lowell) follows the life of “Irish” Micky Ward from 1993 to 2000, though while watching the movie you’re not especially aware that it takes place over seven years.  Micky (Marky Mark Wahlberg) is trained by his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale: fucking amazing) who was a contender at one time (having “knocked down” Sugar Ray Leonard).  Dicky’s achievements earned him the nickname “the Pride of Lowell” but he’s now bottomed out as a crackhead (which, according to Wikipedia, he still is).  Micky’s horribly mismanaged by his mother (Melissa Leo, also great) and it’s only when he starts dating barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams) that he starts running his career his own way.  In a lot of ways the story is the pretty standard underdog sports movie, but director David O. Russell elevates it above that.  Russell previously directed two of Marky Mark’s previous best roles in Three Kings and I ♥ Huckabees but they’ve topped themselves with this latest collaboration.  The best thing is that the characters have some depth to them (most of them anyway, Ward’s sisters are [with one exception] just characterized as obnoxious stereotypes).  Bale’s Dicky isn’t just a clichéd junkie but an engaging and friendly guy.  You can really see why Micky would keep him around despite all his problems (Bale’s probably going to win a ton of awards for this).  As Alice, Micky & Dicky’s mom, Melissa Leo is mostly in domineering mode but shows enough cracks in the armor to take the role beyond a two dimensional “villain.”  The fights are not shot overly stylized like Scorsese or Eastwood have done, but the way you would see them on HBO.  It makes you forget you’re watching a choreographed re-enactment and makes you feel like you’re watching a real fight.  To say The Fighter is the best boxing film in decades (which it just may be) is to limit the scope of the film.  It goes beyond just a sports movie or family drama into something more.  It’s great.  See it.

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