Monday, January 3, 2011

The Fighter. A-

The Fighter may be the finest boxing movie ever made, which is high praise even if I don't love Rocky and Raging Bull as much as some do. There's a really interesting family dynamic going on here, as Micky Ward (Mark Walhberg) attempts to make it to the top with the aid of his severely messed up family. His mother (Melissa Leo) is his vehement manager, his older half-brother Dickie (Christian Bale) his trainer, and his girlfriend (Amy Adams) his motivational force to leave his family to make it to the top. The mother has the drive and the passion, but lacks real experience. Dickie is a recalcitrant drug-addict with a similar spirit. Yet his mischievous tendencies make him an unreliable trainer for Mickey. Micky, as played by Mark Walhberg, is pretty laid back and doesn't want there to be any sort of conflict (but with this family, it's pretty much unavoidable). He respects Dickie and wouldn't want to compromise their relationship by getting a new trainer. Yet there's a group from Vegas who offer to give him year round training, which would land Micky into some of the nation's top fights. Director David O'Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) has made a boxing movie, yes, but it's blatantly obvious that he's far more concerned with analyzing Micky and his family (I should mention that Micky also has seven sisters, all jobless and all still living at home) than shooting in the ring. It's almost as if Micky's boxing story is there just to give a reason to look at characters. This is a movie that's also about great acting, of which there is plenty of here. Christian Bale has been garnering ridiculous acclaim for his role, and he really is the movie's central force. But I found Walhberg to be great, too, because in contrast to Bale, he doesn't even seem to be acting. Getting back to Bale. I've mentioned that he's a limited actor, but that was before I saw The Machinist, and now this. The truth is that Bale is a great actor when he can play eccentrics. But when he's playing stilted characters like Bruce Wayne, his true colors are completely masked. There's also great work here from Adams and Leo, as well as Micky's sisters. The Fighter has a formula ending, but by that point it has set up the story so that we really, and I mean really care about Micky winning. It leaves you feeling great, in what may be the most American movie I've seen all year.

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