Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Fighter [ Movie Review ] ★★★★

"Definitely a Contender"

Here comes The Fighter, the story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg)'s quest for a boxing championship while dealing with adversities both in the ring and at home. His older brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) was once the pride of Lowell Massachusetts and had went on to fight Sugar Ray Leonard. His life took a wrong turn for drug addiction, he started living his life in past glories and took on the role of trainer for Micky Ward. Coupled with their mom's not so competent management, Micky Ward had no chance at championship and was starting to spiral into despair.

There are opportunities for him to leave his destructive  family and embark on his quest to be a contender but his love and respect for Dicky Eklund and his mom were holding him back. Now will Micky Ward turned his back against him family for his personal goal or would he be able to pull his family out of the slums that they are in?

The current buzz around The Fighter would definitely be on Christian Bale's performance and transformation. Heavily favored upon for a Best Supporting award in the upcoming major movie awards, it's not hard to see the rationale behind all these early accolades after previewing The Fighter. Christian Bale's rendition of Micky Ward's drug addict brother was so impressive that it's hard to think that's the guy who played Batman / Bruce Wayne for three consecutive movies.

Not only did he loosed massive amount of body weight to get in shaped of a drug addict, he also aced in capturing the mannerism of one. It's a matter of acting skill and immersing oneself into the character that he is playing. It's hard to find trace of Christian Bale and watching the short video of the Ward brothers at the end, I would say that he capture the essence of Dicky Eklund, a train wreck that steals the limelight wherever he goes. Though Christian Bale lost weight for movie roles before, this is by far the most entertaining and notable role yet.

While Christian Bale's performance would probably steal the thunder from everyone else in this movie, it would easy to overlook the effort of the rest to make this movie such a knockout.

The filmmakers used vintage filming technique to capture the fights of the past decades, effectively teleporting the audience to another era. Most audience would probably not realize that Mark Wahlberg had started training for the roles since six movies ago. Nor it would be likely that folks take note on how Mark Wahlberg did the boxing scenes without a stunt double. But it's the "little things" that made The Fighter such an absorbing experience. The upper cuts felt right and even though the boxing matches were decades old, the excitement of watching those fights were right on the edge of the seat.

It's both a pity and commendable effort that Mark Wahlberg chose to take on the role of Micky Ward. On one hand, the restrained mannerism of Micky Ward would probably mean that lesser of a chance at the acting awards for Mark Wahlberg. On the other hand, it made the less flashy Micky Ward so more believable and relatable. It's tough to get in shape of a boxer but I think it's tougher to stand your ground while performing with someone who got such rich material to play with. Nevertheless, Mark Wahlberg did a great job in making us root for Micky Ward, whether he is facing his opponents in the ring or the poisonous relationship with his family members.

Beside Christian Bale's over the top performance, Mark Wahlberg's restrained performance, the exciting look back at Micky Ward's fights, Melissa Leo's performance as Alice Eklund was noteworthy. One moment, she is a loathsome "white trash" who is ruining her sons's life and career. A quick turn and change of circumstance, her motherly concern and tears would moved her detractor. Like Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo's Alice Eklund would have to contend with Christina Bale's overwhelming performance but both Mark Wahlberg and Melissa Leo managed to stand their ground and bring something noteworthy to this movie.

The Fighter is one of those special boxing movie that engaged beyond the fights in the ring. Though this underdog movie is fairly predictable, it's the acting that make this movie stand out from the rest. The fights were superbly choreographed that it would attracts newbies and making them understand what there to lose or win in a tough match. This is one movie that blends drama and the ferocity of boxing into one fine entertainment. It would be interesting to see how Christian Bale and the rest fare in the upcoming awards festival.

The Fighter comes Highly Recommended.

Beyond the Movie

- It's sad to note that Dicky Eklund relapse back into his bad habits in 2006 and 2009. (Info from Wikipedia)

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