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Monday, June 20, 2011

"The Fighter", boxing and family triumph by K.O.

The Fighter
Great surprise. Wasn't expecting much, because boxing has been overused by Hollywood, and so the topic of redemption/second opportunity through sport, which is on the verge of being a worrying cliché. But luckily, "The Fighter" offers a lot more.

To start with, because boxing remains on the background of the movie, and although it is based on the true story of "Irish" Micky Ward, a local hero from Lowell, Massachusetts, the film instead reveals itself as a familiar drama where there are far more punches at the emotional level that inside the ring.

During the first hour of "The Fighter", we saw a family holding on to nothing, struggling with the decadence of Dick Ecklund (Christian Bale), once a boxing local legend, but now a human waste, consumed by crack addiction. The family is sticking with him, living of the past glory, dragging his younger brother Mick Ward (Mark Wahlberg), who also tries to be a boxer, with them. There's no glamour in this portray, as director David O Russell shows us how poverty is around the corner, and how family and the familiar business boxing is, is disgusting and ugly.

Russell really manages to make us feel the suffocating environment in which Mick is trapped because of his family. He also is able to bring the outsider character into the mix, in the form of a girlfriend (played solidly by Amy Adams), someone really meaningful to Mick who has no fear in saying the things he cannot say to his mother and sisters. She's liberation for him, a reason to keep fighting, and deciding to walk his own way. 

It might be true the second half of the film is more uplifting, with a happier, friendlier tone with the characters. Being a true story I feel inclined to believe it, or maybe, by the time the second opportunity arrives, I cannot avoid to feel a bit compelled by it. But even then, the film has glimpses of harsh reality in a poignant dialogue, a gesture, or awkward situation where the unbalanced relation between the brothers still arises. This wouldn't be possible without the brilliant job of the actors, not just Bale's manic impersonation of Dick, which made him won a deserved Oscar, but everyone on screen. Special credit to Wahlberg's performance, carrying the film on his shoulders, sometimes with just an appalled face.

So, yes, this is another movie about underdogs trying to succeed. But this time the fight is for survival, there's real darkness, filthiness, consistency, and a remarkable honesty in the script, acting and direction. Overall, a knockout triumph.

SCORE: 7,5/10

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