Title: The Fighter
Director: David O Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Release Date: Out Now
The Fighter is a biopic of Irish American boxer Micky Ward and his troubled relationship with his dysfunctional family, particularly his half-brother Dicky Elkund, himself a down and out boxer suffering a drug addiction and a serious case of the ‘what could have beens’. The film follows Ward’s torment when forced to choose between loyalty to his family or the career and success he so desperately craves.
A number of things stand out about this film. Christian Bale’s performance as the chaotic figure of Dicky Elkund is nothing short of superb. Bale is capable of making you feel both supreme irritation with the perpetual trouble-maker, and at the same time draw serious sympathy from the audience for a man who has lost everything to drugs and is at least trying to make up for it.
The surprise performance of the film is Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward. This would be director David O. Russell and Wahlberg’s third collaboration, and the duo finally found their stride.
Most people would dismiss the former member of the Funky Bunch out of hand as the purveyor of naff, two-star action flicks. Yet this time he surprises all by putting in a damn admirable effort as a man teetering on the edge of failure. Apparently Wahlberg and Ward were already acquaintances within the Irish American community in and around Boston.
So what makes Wahlberg’s performance so special? In marked contrast to his usual cliché riddled action roles, he plays the role of young working-class man with a troubled background trying to make it big. Wahlberg puts a lot of personal experience into this part, and Wahlberg really shines.
Finally, what makes this film unique as a sport biopic lies in what parts of Ward’s career are shown. The highpoint of Ward’s boxing life, his three fight rivalry with Arturo Gatti, doesn’t feature. Focusing on the darker times in Ward’s career is an unusual play for Russell to make, but it truly pays off. Instead the film centres not on Ward’s rise to glory, focusing rather on him rescuing his career and his brother’s desire for redemption amidst the struggles of working class life in the states.
In a Nutshell: Marky Marked for greatness.