Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo
Before a boxer sets foot in any ring, he most likely has a plan of attack in place. If he is serious about what he does, he has studied his opponent; he knows his strategies, his weaknesses. A great boxer is in control of the game even when it seems like he might not be; he can see the match straight through to the knockout. THE FIGHTER is just like that boxer and once the bell rings, signifying the fight has begun, it comes at you fast and hits you hard. You won’t even see it coming. It’s that good.
Everyone is a fighter in THE FIGHTER but there are two that fit the bill in a more technical sense of the word. Mark Wahlberg, a producer on the film, plays Micky Ward, the real life Lowell, Massachusets native and now retired junior welterweight boxing champion. Ward was on hiatus from professional boxing in the early ‘90’s and the film picks up as he is preparing for his comeback in 1993, with his brother, Dickie Ecklund (Christian Bale), also a former boxer, coaching in his corner. Ecklund’s serious crack problem does not allow for him to be in anyone’s corner but his own really and Micky must learn to fight his way out from brother Dickie’s shadow in order to become his own man.
Wahlberg gives a strong performance, giving THE FIGHTER a solid center to move around but part of Micky’s character is to allow the more dominant forces in his life control his surroundings. This allows for the supporting players to truly stand out. Bale is a twisted and tortured mess, a refreshing return to form. Meanwhile, Melissa Leo is pure, trash gold as Micky & Dickie’s manager mom. Even Amy Adams turns a quiet role as Micky’s love interest into something smoldering. Her fights with Mama Leo are almost as gruesome as the one’s in the ring.
As incredible as THE FIGHTER is, it would be nothing without the man in its corner, director, David O. Russell. Russell has crafted a taut picture that plays like its working the ring from every angle possible and placing the viewer in the middle of this barrage of punches that rarely lets up. Don’t worry; you get out alive. You aren’t the same though.