There is something about boxing — that gladiatorial battle, the blood, the screaming crowds seems to address some primeval need in us. And boxing films (well made ones) bring it all together — the guts, gore and glory — in a satisfying package. They are the beloved of the Academy (Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby and Cinderella Man were all honoured with awards and nominations) and The Fighter follows the tradition with seven nominations, including for best picture and director.
Based on the life of Micky Ward, a professional boxer, and his older half-brother Dicky Eklund, The Fighter is that classic sports movie which delivers on all its promises. While the theme of the underdog triumphing is nothing new, the acting elevates the movie to a whole new level.
Leading the way is Christian Bale as Dicky, a boxer who had his shot at greatness and lost it all to cocaine. Apart from the fact that Bale lost weight for the role, he has internalised Dicky to the extent that he becomes Dicky; talking and moving with a kind of internal rhythm that is intoxicating to watch. We'll know if Bale will win the Academy Award for supporting actor tonight.
Then there is Mark Wahlberg as Micky who idolises his brother but also like all great loves, Micky's love for his brother is tinged with envy (“can't it once be about me?”) and a desire to break free of his brother's shadow, to be his own man and make his own life. Wahlberg has nailed the part, insecurities and all.
Amy Adams plays Charlene, an athlete and college dropout, Micky's love interest who feels his family is bad for him. Melissa Leo plays the other woman in Micky's life, his mother, Alice who loves all her seven daughters and two sons equally only she loves Dicky more than the others. In the beginning of the film, you feel she is a caricature — shrill and trashy but as the movie goes along you begin to empathise with her and Leo deserves a gold star for her skilful realisation of the character. Both actresses have got nominated. Apart from the A-1 acting chops displayed by the cast, the other thing that renders The Fighter riveting has to be the fight sequences. Imaginatively choreographed and brilliantly shot, the set pieces run on adrenaline and ensure a K.O. effect. The music, headlined by Led Zeppelin's “Good Times, Bad Times” is the cherry on this jolly perfect cake.
The fighter in the title could refer to Micky who needs to cast his demons to win at the ring and also to Dicky who needs to get the monkey of cocaine addiction off his back. Director David O. Russell, who earlier directed Wahlberg in Three Kings, has delivered an engrossing movie with an electric blend of action and emotion.
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Storyline: Pugilist siblings have a shot at redemption within and outside the ring
Bottomline: Solid boxing film with some extraordinarily well-choreographed fights