Brother, On Occasion, Knows Best

The Fighter (2010). Directed by David O. Russell. With Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams

Marky Mark of 90s fame had pranced like a boxer displaying his ripped physique while gesturing movements of a fighter in “Good Vibrations” and other bad boy mock-ups.  Director Russell finds the Boston in Mark Wahlberg’s past and transfers the criminal run-ins to the brother Dickey played by Christian Bale (deserved Oscar nomination).  Wahlberg was destined to embody a boxer from those early buff days in the limelight.

Russell had used Wahlberg in I Heart Huckabees nearly six years prior for which Village Voice Critics Poll of 2004 voted best supporting performance to Wahlberg.  In this Rocky channeling film, the parameters are delineated: Lowell, Massachusetts as opposed to Philly sets the scene with an Irish fighter instead of an Italian all-heart fighter.  Furthermore, the story is also based upon a “real” account just as Stallone had claimed.  For The Fighter, narrative foundation derives from light welterweight champ Micky Ward.

Telling in the producer credit roll are two noticeable names: executive producer Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) and star producer Mark Wahlberg (executive produces HBO’s lucrative Entourage and Boardwalk Empire.)  Heft and confidence is evident in the solid casting and formidable financiers.  Question is: Worth your admission ticket?

Hollywood adores Bostonian accents and displays of impoverished spunky Irish residents.  Familiar tropes about cavalier parents and white trash sensibilities permeate the screen.  Documentary-style footage begins the film where Bale as Dicky is reliving his K.O. of Sugar Ray Leonard maybe a generation earlier.  Younger brother Mickey uncomfortably eyes the MTV camera crew whose angle is less about Dicky’s comeback than his extracurricular antics.  Mickey relies upon Dicky for training and strategies.  More brawn versus brain, Mickey blindly adheres to the misguided advice Dicky and his selfish mother Alice provide.  Pummeled and embarrassed, Mickey retreats to his squalid apartment following the mismatched boxing fight that secured his pay yet decimated his face and resolve.  Adorable and feisty, barmaid Charlene draws Mickey into confronting his family and eventually builds a new training team committed to keeping negative influences (Dicky specifically) away and fighting appropriate competitors.

This film’s emphasis is the struggle between and independently of each brother to carve an identity apart from established roles and understandings.

For those looking for bloodsport, not many fighting sequences occur.  Family tensions dominate.  Mickey has to utilize his average potential into greatness for redemption to Lowell, Dicky, and himself.  Predictable arcs occur, but layers of humor in the family clan brighten the film’s trajectory.  Character portrayal is very strong which is indicative by nominations; however, the narrative lost steam as it debated between exploiting the family psychology or opting for thrills and growth of the fighter himself.  About 4o minutes into the film, the director started fast-forwarding the plot to where an exchange between Charlene and Dicky feels ridiculously simplistic.

If you want to watch strong acting, then allot time.  For an overall judgment, The Fighter is only average.

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