“The Fighter” is the story of not just one fighter, but two: Micky “Irish” Ward and his half-brother Dicky Eklund. And the proverbial “fight” encompasses much more than just two guys with gloves in a ring. Director David Russell’s film focuses on the early portion of Micky Ward’s famous career, when his own brother was his trainer, his mother was his manager, and the small-town of Lowell, Massachusetts was his gym.
Junior welterweight Micky Ward, portrayed by a quiet and determined Wahlberg, would later become famous for facing the late Arturo Gatti in a trilogy of epic fights, two of which were named “Fight of the Year” by Ring Magazine, the first of which Ward actually won. “The Fighter” however takes place years before these fights would happen or could ever be imagined.
Wahlberg delivers a solid performance as Micky, acting as the anchor to the other characters whirling around him.
Unfortunately Wahlberg’s performance is utterly outshined by Christian Bale’s outstanding portrayal of Dicky. Bale lost over 30 pounds to take on the role of the troubled, drug-addled former “Pride of Lowell”, named for his famous 1978 fight against Sugar Ray Leonard in his own boxing career. The camaraderie between Micky and Dicky is a complex one; on the one hand the brothers care deeply for each other, on the other Micky realizes that Dicky might just be the thing holding his career back. Dicky’s refusal to acknowledge his crack addiction strains their relationship and his carelessness leads to several dangerous close calls in Micky’s already tenuous career.
CURRENT SHOWTIMES IN SANTA BARBARA FOR ‘THE FIGHTER’225 N. Fairview Ave, Goleta – 12:45 3:35 6:45 9:35 p.m.
The credits of the film include an interview with the real-life brothers, and the resemblance between the true Dicky and Bale’s interpretation are striking, straight down to speech patterns and mannerisms. While Wahlberg holds the title credit in the film, Bale most certainly steals the show from start to finish as their stories overlap and interweave.
The film presents a total of six fights in the course of Micky’s early career, beginning with an obscenely mismatched local gig and ending with an international fight against Shea Neary for the WBU Light Welterweight title, which would put Ward on the map. The fights are a joy to watch, the camera spinning around almost entirely within or just outside the ropes like a ringside reporter’s camera might. The fights have the grainy image and high-key lighting of those broadcast on television, and the noise is an overwhelming mixture of the announcers’ blow-by-blow accounting and the crowd’s wild cheering. The overall effect is exhilarating and the fights are a complete joy to watch.
The plot of the movie is not complex, nor is it entirely original, but man does it pack a punch full of honesty and heart. So sure, “The Fighter” features your traditional training montage, fight montage, and a “Rocky”-reminiscent rise to fame, but between those genre staples there lies a story about family, love, and the complications that come with the lifestyle of professional boxing.
Micky’s corner of supporting actresses include Amy Adams as Micky’s tough-as-nails girlfriend Charlene, a key player in helping Micky deal with the collision of his professional life and family life. One of the most rewarding scenes in the film comes when Dicky, fresh out of jail, tries to convince a stubborn Charlene to let him continue to train Micky.
Melissa Leo, as Micky and Dicky’s mother, gives an equally as convincing performance, and the ensemble of women that comprise the cast of Micky’s many sisters helps color not only the atmosphere of the film but the general character of Lowell, a harsh, industrial town just outside of Boston. These characters provide depth to the movie that will resonate with mild- to non-boxing fans as well.
“The Fighter” boasts six Golden Globe nominations, including Wahlberg for Best Actor in a drama, Bale for Best Supporting Actor, and Russell for Best Director. This is not a film to let fall through the ropes this holiday season!