Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O’ Keefe, Jack McGee
Director: David O’ Russell
Writer(s): Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Cinematography: Hoyte Van Haytema
Original Score: Michael Brook
Running Time: 115 Mins.
Despite having Darren Aronovsky as executive producer and the man himself once touted to direct this is not a film akin to The Wrestler or Black Swan, lacking the latter’s pretentious leanings that took a sport (ballet) and twisted it into an over-blown “study” of the human psyche. The Fighter is a much simpler tale, and a hell of a good one at that meaning we should all be thankful that it was David O’ Russell (he behind Three Kings) who eventually took the reigns, bringing something rather special to a potentially run-of-the-mill biopic.
Seeing as it concerns boxing the comparisons to Raging Bull and Rocky have already been drawn, unfairly perhaps as this is one film as different from those efforts to make it stand on its own two feet of an example of perhaps not only one of the best sports films ever but one of the greatest, full stop. To call this a sports film seems prudent given the subject matter, small town boy makes it big in the ring against the backdrop of hardships from all and sundry, but it is not really until the final half hour that we enter full-on boxing movie mode. Up to this point the films that The Fighter harks towards are Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck’s repertoire so far had the same gritty, taking it right to the streets flurry of emotions mined by The Fighter.
O’ Russell shoots in a more docu-style than Affleck did but this lends the film an excellent “look”, opening with faux interview footage we are thrust straight into the story and most importantly the characters, those afraid of Bale overacting as Dickie Ecklund will be eating there words, he totally becomes the man and admittedly he seems larger than life, something which closing footage of the guy himself puts paid to as the voice, every tic and his wiry frame were expertly embodied by Bale, surely one of the greatest actors of our time. Though as he himself has said he could only go “so big” having Wahlberg be so small, this is not a criticism and Wahlberg (as Micky Ward) is Bale’s opposite. Where Bale acts up and embodies a big man (in personality at least) Wahlberg proves his chops as he is subtle simply letting it all happen around him, again perfectly captured as per the real-life footage.
Surrounding the two leads are a veritable collection of spot-on turns, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams fully deserving their Oscar nods, though everyone plays it to perfection, not in a big movie-star way but in a totally immersive way that adds both a great deal of heart and the involving realism that only comes when you can forget you are watching actors…act! The knockout blow (excuse the pun!) comes as these, excellent, elements come together. So many films contain cracking performances, great direction or fantastic writing, The Fighter melds them all together but most astonishingly of all is that it doesn’t come off as a film desperate for awards glory, yes the superb aspects are all there but yu are as likely to go away feeling great as you are praising Bale.
This one, two punch of feel-good enjoyable film-making alongside accomplished and pitch-perfect film-making is not a quality often found, The King’s Speech nearly had it all while Black Swan was simply pretentious and over-wrought lacking anything to make you continue thinking about after you walked away. You will likely hear The Fighter commended as to how “good” it is, that is to say it’s about more than mere performance, its about making a quality product that touches all the basis whilst remaining with you, yearning for that second, third or fourth viewing!
The Fighter stands head and shoulders atop its peers, as it overcomes that hurdle of being simply made as Oscar-bait, though there is no doubt Bale deserves mention, the cast convince so much that you forget this is acting while it always manages to become a hugely enjoyable feel-good film as it dips in and out of genres and keeps the quality at an all-time high.