I despise the sport of boxing, considering it (and its relatives) only a tiny step up from gladiator fights and therefore not fit for a civilized society. So films like Raging Bull, Rocky and Million Dollar Baby may be great films, but I have no interest in seeing them again. This is also why I have avoided watching The Fighter until now, despite feeling in my gut that it would be another great film. Well, that and the fact that I’ve never liked Mark Wahlberg and he had the starring role.
I still don’t like Wahlberg. In a film where the highlight is the incredible acting (and I am talking mindbogglingly good acting, well deserving of the Academy Awards two of them received), Wahlberg is the one disappointment, unconvincing as Micky Ward, the fighter trying one last time to make it big. Or maybe it is Ward that is unconvincing in the midst of an otherwise very dysfunctional family (his father notwithstanding).
If this film had been full of fights and all about boxing, I would have yawned (or grimaced) and given it three stars for the acting. But it was not. Instead, it was about Ward’s dysfunctional family relationships, focusing on his brother Dicky (Christian Bale, whose acting skills are amazing). Given that The Fighter is based on a true story and all these people are still around, I was very impressed by the honesty of the portrayals. Micky’s scary mother (awesome performance by Melissa Leo) and foulmouthed girlfriend (Amy Adams performing as well as we have come to expect) were very well-drawn characters and felt like the real thing. I was also impressed by the way this dysfunctional family was not taken to extremes, allowing for an inspiring and hopeful ending.
I was surprised by how much I appreciated the cinematography in The Fighter. For this kind of film, I expected grainy handheld camera work, but it mixed up its styles and was beautiful to watch.
The Fighter gets ***+ despite its subject matter. My mug is up.
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