Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"The Fighter" Review. Brilliant.

It's awards season. Its the time when all the Oscar contenders come to the forefront for all to see. There are always 4 or 5 movies that get a lot of attention before the awards. One of those movies is The Fighter.

In a rare case where the trailer actually WAS an indicator of the movie, I looked forward to this one for a few months now. I have a lot to say so I'm going to jump right into my review. I'll go over a few things I like and what little I didn't like about the movie.

What I liked about the movie:
The Cast
From the first scene, you will see the brilliant performances turned in for the movie. Let's start right away with a bold prediction. Christian Bale WILL receive AT LEAST an Oscar nomination for this movie. Bale plays Dicky Eklund, a washed up former boxer who now resorts to crack to feel better. He is the older brother of Mark Wahlberg's character, "Irish" Micky Ward.

Bale turns in the kind of performance where an actor gets lost in the character. He accurately depicts the way addiction to crack, can mentally and physically break you down. Bale lost a lot of weight for the film, much like his role in The Machinist. The way he couldn't sit still or hold a thought was amazing. He's living in the past. Using his past accomplishments as a mediocre boxer to earn respect among his friends in his tiny neighborhood of Lowell, Massachusetts. He was truly lost in the character. A brilliant performance I feel lucky to have seen!

Mark Wahlberg did very well in the film. His performance will be overshadowed by Bale though (interesting because Heath Ledger's turn as The Joker overshadowed Bale's wonderful performance in The Dark Knight). Wahlberg had a difficult task of physically being prepared, and emotionally he had to bring his A-game. There are several scenes where Wahlberg doesn't speak at all, yet he conveys how confused and misguided he is. Great job!

Then there's Amy Adams, who plays Wahlberg's girlfriend. She played an emotionally destroyed young woman who is trying to reinvent herself. She's a college drop out that made nothing of her track and field career. She bar tends to pay the rent and has no aspirations for more. She plays a tough girl who stands up to Wahlberg's family after they give her crap for helping to change his mind about something important. Great performance from the fiery red head which is sure to land her her third Oscar nomination.

The rest of the family is played by people you know you've seen, but don't know their names. Wahlberg's sisters and parents round out the supporting cast which makes for some great laughs during the movie. The movie is really funny during arguments amongst the family members. This was a great break from the serious drama.

The Director
I never thought I'd say this, but David O. Russell did an outstanding job of directing this film. I did enjoy his previous film co-starring Wahlberg though, Three Kings. Personally I didn't like any of the rest of his films. It's ok, he's planning to re-team with Wahlberg for a third time in the video game adaptation, Uncharted.

Russell did everything well in this film. His choice of setting, actors, costume, lighting, etc. All of it made for one of the most realistic feelings I ever got from watching a movie. Most of the film takes place in the early 1990's and everything is reflective of that. All the way down to Wahlberg's hideous shirts. The script was great, it was written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson. But the story came to life and separated itself from other sports-themed movies because of Russell.

The Story
I usually list this as my first "like" when I review a movie I enjoyed. This time, it gets third. The story is amazing, a true "underdog" becoming something more. Other than Russell, what separated the film from other boxing movies, or sports-themed movies in general was, it's about the family. It's about the people involved. The boxing is a metaphor for the struggle. The family sticking together is what makes the prize worth winning. One thing that the Rocky franchise gets a lot of credit for was the fact that it focused on the man, not the sport. The Fighter is no exception, it made us care about the people before it made us care about the sport.

What I didn't like about the movie:
The Length
You're probably going to think I wanted less right? That it was too long right? Nope, it wasn't long ENOUGH! It comes in right at 2 hours, and I'm telling you guys, it's not long enough. There's more to it, which is this... the movie is a low-budget film, maybe there wasn't any money left, maybe they didn't fill out the script, I don't know. But there are a couple of scenes that were rushed just to tie up some loose ends. I didn't enjoy that. I wish more time would have been dedicated to the training of the last fight, or even the way Wahlberg and his mother worked out their issues. Again, things I would have loved more of.

The Fighter is truly one of the best sport-themed films I have ever seen. The story of brothers. The story of the underdog. The story of a small town community. Family squabble, drug abuse, the media and its affect on America, money and its affect on people... the list goes on and on. All in 2 hours mind you. I've been wanting to see this movie for a few months, and now that I have, I want to see it again. I will root for it during awards season and hope that Bale wins his first of several Academy Awards. Thumbs up Russell for making a hater of your work, love you.

1 comment:

FattMatt said...

I loved Bale in this. He definitely deserves the Oscar.
Amy Adams is my favorite, but I think Melissa Leo did a fantastic job and deserves a statue.

What I don't agree with you on is Wahlberg. I like him a lot, but his performance wasn't anything great.