The Fighter (2010)

(In theaters, December 2010) I have no specific interest in boxing movies or family dramas, but even I can recognize that The Fighter is about as good as those kinds of films can ever be.  Based on the true story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, the film focuses on a period during which family problems and lack of focus are threatening to derail his career.  Part of the appeal is the film’s unusual message of reasonably distancing oneself from one’s family in order to succeed –a far cry from the usual family-at-all-costs message in American films.  While the film does end up with a happy reunion… it’s suitably nuanced by sacrifices and bad personality traits from everyone involved.  Although Mark Wahlberg is credible as a boxer, he doesn’t have much to do dramatically here but portray a solid hero; Christian Bale gets a far more interesting role as a washed-up addict waking up to his faults, whereas Amy Adams throws herself in a role that could have easily gone straight to cliché.  David O. Russell’s direction is often documentary-style; more-so at first, and then later on during the boxing sequences.  Those boxing scenes are solid enough to actually catch the nuances of who’s winning and why (which turns out to be essential once the protagonist starts winning fight unexpectedly).  Given the film’s close ties with the real people it portrays, don’t expect to see Ward’s true story (read the news clippings instead).  Still, even if The Fighter doesn’t have any surprises and plays with clichés, its portrayal of lower-class characters is honest, its payoffs are earned and its blend of sports and family drama is satisfying.

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