I really enjoy a good sports movie; I am impartial to baseball as it is my favorite of all professional and collegiate sports. MAJOR LEAGUE has always been one of my favorites since childhood, but I also enjoy the occasional football experience and other sports movies including ROCKY, which is a film that THE FIGHTER shares a lot in common with. Within the structure of the sports film conventions THE FIGHTER is well over half drama with the actual fights being secondary and a dash of comedy sprinkled in here and there. There isn’t a weak performance to be had and by the end I was fully invested and cheering right along with the crowds.
Up and coming boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) trains with his brother Dicky (Christian Bale) and is managed by his mother Alice (Melissa Leo). His career is at a turning point as he is matched up with a fighter well out of his weight class and is humiliated by how one sided the fight is. He begins a relationship with a bartender, Charlene (Amy Adams), who stands behind him when Dicky is arrested and he makes a decision to move on with new training and management, which causes a strain in Micky’s relationships with his family.
THE FIGHTER was a film that really did not impress me for the first half hour or so. I didn’t think it was a bad movie there just wasn’t a lot connecting me with the characters. As you coast into the middle of the movie the drama within the relationships and the strength of the performances began to sneak into my head and things just started clicking from there. The family drama, the tension certain characters and the excitement of the boxing scenes really snuck up on me.
It’s the performances that carry the film and lead primarily by Christian Bale, who is as good as he’s ever been. His presence is truly captivating every moment he is on the screen. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are both outstanding as well, the scales tip a bit more towards Leo but the two are very near equal with their contributions for me. Mark Wahlberg, while the lead, is very much set on the sidelines as far as screen presence when Melissa Leo and Christian Bale are both on screen. His character however, feels written like he’s basically the focus but constantly shoved aside while everyone else tries to make things about themselves. Full disclosure, I was not well versed in the true story that THE FIGHTER is based on, but everything in this film despite some of the goofier comic relief feels, looks and sounds real. My enjoyment continued to build and peaked at the end which I feel was more exciting for me since I didn’t really know how it was going to end, despite the story being something of public knowledge.
Most of the actual boxing scenes are very brief, which is why this film is more of a family drama than full out sports film. As the film rolls towards the end the boxing scenes get a little longer and much more enjoyable. My favorite fight and scene was when Dicky is getting updates about one of Micky’s fights over the phone, I love the progression of that specific scene and the culmination of which had completely sold me on the film.
THE FIGHTER is a film full of knockout performances and an abundance of heart to go around. Christian Bale commands and steals every single scene he’s in with Melissa Leo coming in at a strong but distant second. There are a couple of really great fight scenes while the rest leave a little something to be desired. Overall, it’s a film that really has to grow on you as you watch it before you will fall in love with it, but if you stick with it the film really does pay off in the end.