I’m a Boston girl, born and raised, so I think I was genetically predisposed to love “The Fighter.” The film, set and filmed in Lowell MA and the surrounding area, chronicles the true story of two boxing brothers and one man’s quest to win the World Championship. It sounds corny, I know, but take a peek at the cast list: Mark Wahlberg plays boxer Micky Ward while Christian Bale tackles the role of Micky’s junky, washed-up older brother, Dicky Eklund. Amy Adams portrays Charlene, Micky’s tough-as-nails girlfriend.
Director David O. Russell used tight shots and a largely hand-held camera to achieve a close, intimate feel throughout most of the movie. During the major fights, however, the lighting and the camera moves were plucked from the style used by actual televised boxing. The harsh, bright light is unflattering and real–just like the sport itself.
Good directing can only make a movie so far–the rest has to be carried by the writing and the acting. The dialogue was quick, and the characters talked over each other and shouted more often than not. The language was foul, but not out of the realm of imagination for a film set in Lowell in the early to mid ‘90s.
Christian Bale portrayed Micky’s crack-addicted brother, Dicky, with an air of pathetic earnestness. He started off the film skin and bones, only to gain back the weight in muscle during the character’s time in prison, from where he emerges clean and sober. Dicky comes across as jumpy, full of beans and energy, but beneath the junky exterior you can see where he was once a quick and nimble boxer.
Mark Wahlberg was excellent, but to be completely honest he didn’t do anything risky or exciting in this movie (except look wonderful without a shirt). I definitely prefer him in “The Departed.” That being said, Wahlberg gave a solidly good performance. He was earnest, sweet and kind, even as he pummeled the crap out of his boxing opponents. He never truly seemed to lose his confidence, even when everyone in Lowell called him a stepping stone–the boxer that’s put into the right to allow the other boxers to move ahead.
As Charlene, Adams has moved away from sugary-sweet roles like “Enchanted.” One of her more charming lines in the film is along the lines of “I will tear your disgusting hair out of your head.” Coming out of the mouths of any other actress, this line could have seemed grotesquely low-rent, or just fake. Amy Adams, however, gave it just enough heat and intensity to sell her character.
This film is not for the faint of heart (or of stomach). The world of boxing and of early 90s Lowell is gritty and violent. That being said, this isn’t really a movie about boxing; it’s movie about brothers and it’s a movie about triumph. Sure, it speaks to me because I’m from Boston–but there’s so much more to it than that. Do yourself a favor: go see “The Fighter.”