Movie review – Scoring a knockout

2011-02-26 14:37

Film: The Fighter (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: David O Russell
Featuring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams
Rating : 8/10

In the tradition of Rocky and Cinderella Man, The Fighter has been going a few rounds this awards season and is in the running for best picture at the Oscars.

However, it’s more likely to win the best supporting actor for Christian Bale, who portrays a drug-addled former fighter trying to help his brother box his way to the top.

There’s probably a win on the cards for Melissa Leo too, who plays one of the scariest mothers on screen since Barbara Hershey in Black Swan.

The Fighter is based on the true story of “Irish” Micky Ward, a boxer from the mid-1980s who won 38 of his 51 fights.

The story is not original – a working-class boy makes good as a fighter facing many obstacles along the way – but it’s the performances from the film’s stars and the director’s keen eye for the milieu of working class Lowell, Massachusetts, that make it worth the price of a movie ticket.

The Marky Mark of the 1990s has long since reinvented himself as Hollywood player Mark Wahlberg, who not only stars but produces.

While he may not model underwear any more, he’s still got the body for it and for this role he shows off his considerable muscle in some very grittily choreographed boxing scenes.

Wahlberg grew up in Boston and his 2007 Oscar nomination for The Departed proved he’s very much in tune with his roots. So it’s touching that he should tell the story of one of his state’s heroes.

However, though Wahlberg is good as Micky, he’s outdone by Bale, who stars as his brother, Dicky Eklund, a former boxer known as The Pride of Lowell.

The way Dicky trains his brother for a career he’ll never have is bittersweet and fraught with difficulties, which a drug addict isn’t able to cope with.

Leo, an actress who flies under the radar, is a “tough as nails” woman who rules her house and her children’s lives with manipulation and blackmail.

One of the film’s subplots is the emotional and, on one occasion, physical tug of war between Micky’s mother and sisters, and his new girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams).

Adams and Leo deserve their nominations in the best supporting actress category.

The sum of The Fighter’s parts adds up to much more than the story of a has-been boxer from the wrong side of a depressed town in Massachusetts.

 

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