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MOVIE REVIEW: The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg film delivers a punch

The Fighter: Rates a B-.
Courtesy photo

I am just a poor boy/though my story’s seldom told.

I have squandered my resistance/For a pocket full of mumbles

Such are promises

And lies and jests

Still a man hears what he wants to hear/And disregards the rest.

Now, how was this Simon & Garfunkel song (The Boxer) not used in the movie?

I’m a boxing fan and a film lover – so any time a movie is made about a real boxer I’m excited. I loved Cinderella Man, even though Ron Howard made up many aspects of that story (when doesn’t he do that?)

I didn’t know much about Irish Micky Ward, other than his fights with Arturo Gatti were insane battles. One fight is arguably the best in boxing history.

This movie doesn’t deal with those, but his early career and life with his dysfunctional family.

It isn’t until Ward (Mark Wahlberg) meets a bartender (Amy Adams) that his life starts to change. And that’s part of what my problem is with rooting for Ward. He doesn’t seem to be smart enough to realize what’s best for him, so why should I? Of course you still end up rooting for him.

His mom is played by Melissa Leo, who will surely get an Oscar nomination. She got one for Frozen River a few years ago, and now she’s popping up in a lot of great roles.

The best performance in the film belongs to Christian Bale. As far as I’m concerned, you can hand him the Oscar right now. He’s that good, and he steals every scene he’s in.

I remember when he lost 60 pounds, and doctors were advising him against that, for his role in The Machinist (rent it). I’m convinced Bale has a commitment to characters he plays that is the equivalent of boxers who wake up at 5 a.m. to run 10 miles, eat raw eggs, and train the entire day.

Bale is a dope that you wish somebody would punch in the face. He doesn’t shut up about how he once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. Eventually, his brother does punch him. You wonder – will they ever reconcile and work together again?

It’s unfortunate that the movie has a familiar formula it follows. Also unfortunate that a few of the scenes don’t work.

There’s one cliché scene with Ward trying to visit his child, and dealing with an ex-wife that won’t let him. He’s able to get out the words “I’m going to win my next fight and buy a bigger place you can come visit,” before the door slams in his face. Not only is this a tired scene done in so many films, but if it really did happen – I’m guessing it’s because he did something bad, not that his ex-wife is the horrible person; but anything the filmmakers can do to make you care about the underdog.

There are a few scenes that would work better in sitcoms. One has Ward’s seven sisters leaving the house to go confront Amy Adams. Another has Bale jumping out a second story window into a dumpster of trash so he’s not caught by his mom at a crack house. That was powerful the first time, but the second and third time they have that happen, you start to question what director David O. Russell was thinking.

There are a few other scenes that are just a mess.

Apparently, a number of locals were used in the filming; one being the cop that helped train Micky Ward. They actually used the guy in real life to play his character in the movie. How cool for him (and he’s good in the role).

Overall though, this movie works. I think very few people that see it will be disappointed.

Someone leaving the theatre said, “Do you think the family is going to like this? They all looked like awful people in it.”

I think they aren’t the smartest people in the world and they have big enough egos that they’ll love the fact that their story is on the big screen.

My girlfriend said, “I really liked that. I liked Rocky more. And I liked The Wrestler a lot more.”

I could name about 10 boxing movies I liked more; and one – The Boxer – with Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson reminding me of the couple in this movie.

In the clearing stands a boxer/And a fighter by his trade

And he carries the reminders/Of every glove that layed him down

Or cut him till he cried out/In his anger and his shame

“I am leaving, I am leaving”

But the fighter still remains.

Simon & Garfunkel get an A.

The Fighter gets a B-.