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March 15, 2011

DVD of the Week – Review of The Fighter (2010)

by NIR SHALEV

Director David O. Russell had cast Mark Wahlberg in his movies Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, and The Fighter. In Three Kings, Wahlberg plays one of four American soldiers that went off the reservation in search of Saddam’s gold during the First Gulf War; in I Heart Huckabees, he plays a firefighter; and in The Fighter, he plays “Irish” Micky Ward, a small time boxer with large aspirations.

Micky was born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts along with his brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) and seven sisters, and he aspired to become world light welterweight champion. But on the road to success he battles low self esteem; an overbearing mother (Melissa Leo) who’s also his manager; his brother Dicky, who’s an ex-pro (due to a long battle with crack addiction) boxer and has always been his trainer; and eventually a new love in his life, Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams).

The main attractions of the film are Dicky and Micky’s stories. Dicky has a camera crew following him around that’s filming a documentary about him; he believes that it’s because he aspires to make a big comeback in the professional boxing circuit but it’s actually an attack on the effects of crack addiction, with Dicky in the spotlight. We see how often he reminds the world that years back he’d knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard and that he’s somewhat still got it in him to box.

Micky is, well he’s rather boring. He’s very soft spoken and insecure and perhaps should not have been the main focus of the film, but the real Micky Ward is exactly the same so maybe if the screenwriter had romanticized Micky’s character a little bit the film would spark a bit more when Walhberg is on screen.

The seven sisters are a force to be reckoned with and Melissa Leo’s mother figure steals the show as much as Christian Bale’s Dicky. There’s a good reason as to why they both won Oscars for their powerhouse supporting performances.

The boxing scenes are shot with realism, utilizing TV cameras that ESPN and TSN would use to replicate the boxing matches that Micky’d fought but the real boxing happens outside of the ring. Micky boxing conversations with his mom, Micky training with Dicky, Charlene boxing with the sisters and Micky’s mother, and so on. It’s a good drama about a family of fighters that prefers to focus on the more personal fights over the professional ones, which is where it succeeds.

I still believe that the weakest link is Wahlberg’s lackluster performance. Then again, I really should blame the screenwriter and director instead for letting his character be bland and uninteresting. Well, you can’t win them all.

The DVD comes with a commentary track by Director David O. Russell and “The Warriors Code: Filming The Fighter.” The Blu-ray has the same features but also features “Keeping the Faith” and Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary).

Original Commentary Track review of The Fighter by Helen Geib.

Other new releases this week: Hereafter, A Shine of Rainbows, The Switch


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