The Fighter (2010)

Posted: February 8, 2011 in Movies

“The Fighter” doesn’t flourish as an original offering of filmmaking. It’s an underdog story of sporting glory, seen in hundreds of motion pictures throughout the years; it’s also a tale of brutes dreaming and failing each other in a harsh working class corner of Boston. Again, been there, done that.

Where “The Fighter” retrieves inspiration is found deep within its heart, dissecting the lives of “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother Dickie Eklund with an aim for intimacy, more curious about human interaction in the heat of conflict than a routine staging of the comeback blues. It’s an agitated picture that, much like its real-world inspiration, has enormous spirit to overcome its dreary familiarity.

In Lowell, Massachusetts, Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale) is a legend. A former boxer who famously knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, Dickie is a manic machine who adores two things: his pugilist brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) and crack, a drug habit that’s reduced him to a wisp of a man.

Facing a dire future after his latest fight goes horribly awry, Micky is confronted with the toxicity of his enormous family, including his mother and manager, Alice (Melissa Leo). Looking to make a change for himself, spurred on by the support of girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), Micky attempts to break away from his family’s control – an act that sends the boxer to victorious heights – but threatens to shun Dickie and crush his intense world of brotherly adoration.

Faced with a script of proven clichés, director David O. Russell (“Three Kings,” “I Heart Huckabees”) pulls “The Fighter” from his gut. The picture has a quick pace, lively characters laying on thick the Boston vibe, and a sense of neighborhood imprisonment, shaping a hard reality to balance out the Cinderella story.

While the boxing scenes maintain a punishing visceral feel of punches, showcasing a rich command of the sport’s body language, “The Fighter” is more of a character piece observing two brothers at war with themselves. Outgrowing his suffocating family, Micky is facing a new dawn for his career, away from the embedded perception of empowerment he’s received from those who stand to gain financially from his fighting.

Reclaiming his skill with the help of clear-thinker Charlene, Micky steps into the unknown, turning his back on his brother, shattering the diseased routine of their lives. On the other side, Dickie is a mess, devoting his prime adult years to crack, which has rendered him a wreck – clinging desperately to past glory. He’s all heart, but lost to drugs, leaving him in a frenzied state that poisons his brother’s shot at a lasting career.

Bale’s the show-stopper here, radically altering his appearance to fit into Dickie’s itchy skin. Bale’s sunken face is a haunting image that’s difficult to shake. Portraying the dying light within Dickie, Bale delivers monumentally committed work, fleshing out a difficult role of earnest troublemaking. The story makes a huge shift here, clearly more interested in Dickie’s madness than Micky’s rebirth.

Also of note is Amy Adams’s performance as Charlene, who brings a startling sense of command to the nothing girlfriend role. It’s a film centering around two boxing brothers, yet Adams reaches a unique area of appreciation, deploying her best tough cookie impression while retaining her character’s feisty supportive nature.

“The Fighter” is enhanced by a killer soundtrack of fantastic songs, edited with a pure eye for pounding rhythms, and shot with an evocative sense of neighborhood politics and boxing authenticity. Most of the cast was nominated for Academy Awards (with the surprising omission of Wahlburg). The film was on almost every Best of 2010 list I saw, and is definitely worth a viewing – if you haven’t already been to the theater to see it.

The Fighter will be released on BluRay and DVD March 15, 2011.

Download links below. (Updated to only 2 parts on February 27th)

IMBD: Link | Download (AVI): New link March 18th

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