January 25, 2011
You wouldn't believe it if it wasn't a true story. Or based on one. Usually, real life is more like the fictional The Wrestler than the fact-based The Fighter. That conundrum aside, The Fighter gets you over your reluctance to ever watch another movie about boxing through its immersive realism and the immediate shock of Christian Bale's acting as the charismatic, talented, useless, drug-damaged Dicky Ward. Bale has the crazed and emaciated look you see in addicts and ex-addicts -- the only time Bale's extreme weight loss method acting has seemed like more than a stunt to me. And no, I didn't think David O Russell had a film as good as this in him but then I didn't think Darren Aronofsky could or would make a movie like The Wrestler. Does The Fighter have problems? Only this big one: Mark Wahlberg's Micky Ward seems both underwritten and underperformed, a spectator in his own story, overshadowed by the undeniable skill of Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. The latter is surely the most horrific movie mother since Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom -- and that's not a bad comparison, or a better one, in the end, than The Wrestler. Both The Fighter and Animal Kingdom are about the intensity of family. The family business -- crime or boxing -- is almost incidental to the way that the stories both criticise and yet reinforce dangerous, clannish loyalty.