Once upon a time, I planned on never watching ‘The Fighter’. I literally made a conscious decision back in 2011, when ‘The Fighter’ was released, that I would never watch this film. I was flabbergasted it scored such high acclaim from critics across the board. I was entirely blown away that it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning two – Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo). Back in 2011, I thought the last thing this world needed was another boxing movie, one ripe with eternal clichés and rote symbolism, especially if it starred Mark FREAKIN’ Wahlberg. Admittedly, I was still high on the intense boxing juices from my ‘Southpaw’ experience when I decided to make it a boxing movie double-feature and caved in to watching a flick I swore to never see. I figured ‘The Fighter’ to be a somewhat pleasant come down from the raw, flashy force of ‘Southpaw’, which it was.
Based on a true story, ‘The Fighter’ introduces us to Dick Eklund, a.k.a. The Pride of Lowell, whose claim to fame is “knocking down” Sugar Ray Leonard (some people say Sugar Ray tripped) in a boxing match that Eklund eventually lost by decision. Nonetheless, Dicky (Christian Bale) cherished his status as God’s gift to humanity for such a feat, and trained his kid brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) in the boxing art of nuance. As Micky navigates his fragile family situation – his drug addict brother, psychotic mom/manager/promoter, timid realist of a dad, pugnacious girlfriend (Amy Adams), and seven crazy sisters – he finally discovers a balance to his fighting style that leads to a positive upswing in career achievement and personal satisfaction. Hooray for happy endings!
To be honest, I loathe Mark Wahlberg. I don’t think he’s funny. I don’t think he’s clever. Yeah, he’s a handsome bloke, but I think he’s a scratch actor at best who gets the roles he does because of his massive production company. I just don’t dig his good vibrations. Outside of ‘Lone Survivor’, I disliked the last 14 movies he’s been in. Believe me, I counted. That said, he somehow doesn’t suck with a minimalist role as the much maligned boxer Micky Ward, ever-trying to escape his brother’s shadow in ‘The Fighter’. Truthfully, I thought Wahlberg was the supporting actor in this film, and Christian Bale was the lead. Bale stole the show as the zany, drug-addicted, wildcard of a former boxer, Dicky Eklund.
What bummed me out most about ‘The Fighter’ was that the boxing sequences absolutely sucked. Whereas it looked like Jake Gyllenhaal went full method acting to prepare for his role in the ring, from being carved up, to moving precisely like a legit boxer out there, Mark Wahlberg barely looked like he’d ever thrown a punch in his life, let alone one in a match sanctioned by the Las Vegas Gaming Commission. The problem is the boxing scenes are supposed to be the highlight of a boxing movie!
‘The Fighter’ was a total let-down in that regard, and frankly squandered its tremendous potential, including a phenomenal cast of characters, by screwing up the easiest part to get right – the boxing! It’s like a pizza parlour having bad pizza but great breadsticks! It’s a travesty! It’s abominable! It’s why ‘The Fighter’ just didn’t live up to its critical hype for me.
Director: David O Russell
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo