A world champion boxer, “Irish” Mickey Ward had some tough battles in the ring, but none compared to the fight within himself against his family. The Oscar winning biopic film “The Fighter” delivers a knockout punch in drama.
After hearing much about “The Fighter” during the awards season, I finally decided to check it out. It centers around Ward, (Mark Wahlberg) being trained by his idolized older brother Dick Eklund (Christian Bale) to become the family’s next star boxer. Eklund grapples with a heavyweight-sized drug addiction, which tarnished his image and severely alters his personality. Bale excels at playing the character with the perfect amount of strung out lunacy, with a high energy. There is something uniquely special about Eklund.
Often late to the training sessions, due to being stoned out of his mind, Eklund proves to be more of a liability than an asset to Ward. In addition, he’s managed by his money hungry, chain smoking, low class mother played by Melissa Leo. Despite his talent, Ward feels that greater opportunities are beyond him due to being held back by his family. Ward’s siblings also include 9 sisters, who appear like they could be in a Charlie Manson type cult.
When a romantic relationship begins to blossom between Ward and Charlene (Amy Adams), he takes steps towards separating boxing from his family. Adams sizzles as the bartender with a voice of reason, strongly supporting her man from in the corner.
A bout was waged in my mind throughout the film between Wahlberg and Bale as to who was the leading player. It centers around both of them. Bale won the Oscar as Supporting Actor, and is deserving of the recognition but I feel that Wahlberg was equally impressive in his role. He should have at least received a nomination. They are brothers going in opposite directions, Eklund is spiraling downward, forced to face his demons after being put in prison and Ward is on the rise under new management. Their journeys are both gripping to watch.
For her role as their mother, Leo won the Oscar for Supporting Actress and is now best known for dropping the F-bomb in her acceptance speech. Personally, I don’t feel her performance was that explosive. She was good, but I didn’t leave the theater marveling over the role. Adams was also nominated in the category, and though I enjoyed watching her on screen, it didn’t scream Oscar worthy. (Side note: last year I remember seeing Christopher Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds” and Mo’Nique in “Precious” and thinking they deserve an Oscar, other than that the thought rarely crossed my mind.)
Whether a boxing fan or not, “The Fighter” is a compelling story, of a champion who beats all the odds. It is kind of similar to “Rocky” without the catchy theme song, and will leave you cheering for the victor.