REVIEW: The Fighter

22 12 2010

As Mena Suvari’s teenage temptress Angela Hayes told us in “American Beauty,” there’s nothing worse than being ordinary.  In the ring of boxing movies, it’s all too easy to become ordinary.  While the latest contender to take a punch at the reigning champions, David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” is a little too lightweight to compete, it’s got some nice heart.  And as practically all movies about the sport have taught us, soul is all that really matters, right?

However, this isn’t really a boxing movie so much as a movie involving boxing.  It’s mainly a story of brotherhood, family, and pride that’s made all the more fascinating because it’s true.  As many cinematic boxers preceding him have, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) works a low-paying, labor-intensive job to make a living since his boxing career won’t exactly pay the bills.  In his corner, he has his brother, former prize fighter Dickie Ecklund (Christian Bale) who became the pride of their hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts after triumphing over Sugar Ray Leonard.  Now, he’s an unreliable mess so addicted to crack that HBO is doing a documentary on him.

Micky is in many ways inexorably tied to his family with Dickie as his trainer and his tenacious mother (Melissa Leo) as his manager.  She performed the same role back when Dickie was in the ring and often still acts like his manager as opposed to Micky’s.  She puts an emphasis on family unity, which is tough for Micky to swallow as his many trashy half-sisters are often very overbearing.  Micky’s familial concerns lie with his young daughter being raised by his bitter ex-wife and her husband, neither of which want him to have any part in her life because of his lifestyle.

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