The Fighter

The Fighter poster, via Wikimedia

What’s the deal with ‘based on a true story” movies anyway? Is it any less remarkable that someone came up with a notion of a plot that warms the heart, blows the mind, tickles the funny bone? Most “true stories” are sanitized for audiences anyway. Why the desire to coat it as “real”?

I wonder this because “The Fighter” seemed at first like unlikely choice for a sports movie. “Irish” Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlburg’s) rise to fame is not epic; he defended his WBU Light Welterweight championship for only one year.

It’s really the second story, about Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) where the plot gets its forward motion. Dicky used to be a real boxer, once beating Sugar Ray Leonard. After his win, he’s drifted, training Mickey some, but mostly delving into crack addiction. An HBO crew is filming him, purportedly film his comeback, but actually for a film about addiction. Dicky is in prison when he watches this. He has let his own career go and he’ll let his brother’s go as well.

Mickey has depended on the tutelage of his brother and mom Alice (Melissa Leo) as his manager to direct his less-than-stellar career. And he’s not very dynamic, so it’s hard to say where he would have ended up as a boxer had he not met the scrappy bartender Charlene (Amy Adams), who challenges him to stand up to his overbearing family. But the family does not take kindly to letting him go. There’s a frankly awesome scene when Charlene takes on Mickey’s seven Boston-style Greek chorus sisters.

Because Mickey is not really “The Fighter” of the title; his skill in the ring is to be able to withstand the tough punches. No, it’s his brother, Bale at his manic and twitchy best, who has the verve to push Mickey to be a better boxer than he is. Both Bale and Leo got Supporting Oscars for their roles, and they seem to feed off each others’ energies. No wonder Dicky is Alice’s favorite kid: they both have the same drive and will to make life happen.

The film rests heavily on the great performances by Adams, Bale and Leo, but director David O. Russell can’t seem to decide if he wanted a straight-up “Rocky” style movie or something more quirky. What he gets then is an uneven mash-up. Still, a fine entry into the uplifting sports film genre.

Want more?
Maybe you’ll giggle at this take up of Boston-set movies, appropriately called Boston Movie (via