Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Fighter Review

As the Oscar season gets well under way, the nominations are overdue a sports movie. Triumph over adversity, crowd-pleasing finales and the chance for an actor to physically transform themselves are often lapped up by voters, and there's a strong chance The Fighter could perform well come the end of February.

In the sports genre, the main problem can be that clich├ęs are pretty much unavoidable. Most of the available narrative paths, even the moderately unconventional ones, have been trodden many times. With The Fighter, chances are you'll know where it's headed.

Yet that doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable journey getting there. The film centres around the true story of boxer Micky Ward who tries to boost his career just as his crack-smoking brother Dicky, also a boxer, falls further into addiction and further away from his former glory days. With an expansive and controlling family, Micky may be forced to abandon his dependant brother to succeed.

The Fighter is dominated by a series of brilliant performances. Much has been made of Christian Bale's depiction of Dicky, and he is genuinely astonishing. Having lost considerable weight from his bulked-up Batman physique, Bale is simultaneously gaunt yet wide-eyed, funny and goofy, but also deeply saddening. As he slides evermore into his destructive addiction, the waste of Dicky's potential is deeply felt. It's an extremely physical role, and a complete departure from Bale's previous roles.

Amy Adams plays it tough and feisty as Micky's barmaid girlfriend, who opposes his hilariously defensive and devoted sisters, whilst Melissa Leo is excellent as Micky's mother and manager, convinced that being completely dedicated to family is a professional managerial style.

However, Mark Wahlberg is also fantastic as the calm, focused and weary eye of the surrounding tumultuous storm, completely grounding the film when it's in danger of focusing on too many larger-than-life characters. His Micky grants viewers a relatable pathway into the unfolding drama.

The boxing sequences, mostly in the film's second half, are gritty and realistic, well-choreographed and genuinely exciting. Wahlberg excels physically in these scenes, and adds emotion and humanity to the spectacle.

While The Fighter is full of excellent performances and is well made and interesting, it's difficult to become particularly involved in it. You'll sympathise with the characters, you'll marvel at Bale's exceptional performance, and enjoy the visceral fights, but it's not as heart-wrenching or moving as you might expect it to be, never making the leap from being simply a great film to a modern classic.

The Fighter doesn't offer much particularly new, but it is a great example of the boxing sub-genre. The final fight comes off as slightly underwhelming, but it's a solid and enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, with excellent acting and a fun soundtrack.

Entertainment Value: 4/5
Genre Value: 4/5
Style: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

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