Sunday, 30 January 2011

REVIEW: The Fighter

A double whammy for Aronofsky as he produces this David O Russell film based on a true story about Mickey 'Irish' Ward and his relationship with his brother Dickey. Is it the next Rocky? No, not really.

Coming out of The Fighter I was a bit unsure of what I felt. It's as if I should recognise this was a great film, but I just couldn't accept that it was. It's all there, downtrodden fighter, against-all-odds, the love interest, drugs, hope, despair but I couldn't help but think it was a mere shadow compared to sporting films in the past and the obvious link to The Wrestler, the reason why this was directed by O Russell rather than Aronofsky, makes it abundantly clear that it's just not top quality. It's a rather standard movie that has appeared at the right time to be considered for awards. A bit of a dirty shot as I doubt had it been released a while ago, it would have been considered.

Why is it not the big hit it's supposed to be? Well, the story is pretty mundane to be honest. Mickey is trying to be an accomplished boxer but living in the shadow of his drug-using, egotistical Dickey played by Bale as well as having an over-bearing mother and a gaggle of sisters. All the while he's dating strong-spirited Amy Adams and trying his best to train and yet not let everyone down at the same time. The real focus of the story here though is Bale and Mickey Ward is a strong, yet simple man who just wants to fight and really he's just too weak to stand up for himself. How ironic and something Oscar judges will probably cream themselves over. However, it's been done.

The acting here is pretty good but swings from cartoonish to overly-serious. Bale's Dickey is a force to be reckoned with and again Bale has completely taken over the role looking similar to his skin-and-bones Machinist persona. Dickey is clearly deluded into creating a legacy that is bigger than himself, and unfortunately so is his mother. It's some great acting but I felt at times it was a little too much, perhaps much like Dickey himself he becomes a caricature and it's slightly off-putting compared to the rather wooden Wahlberg. I honest to God cannot see why he is still being cast in anything, he has exactly the same look, the same tone, he might as well be reading off the page. There's no emotion behind his eyes and I might have liked him in some performances, but the role has to cater to Wahlberg, Wahlberg doesn't cater for the role. I'm no boxing expert, but I still felt Wahlberg was unconvincing as a boxer, he can hit a speedbag and do some combinations but it's not exactly Raging Bull. Instead Wahlberg looks like a stone as he boxes, it's so insular and looks amateurish, the fights themselves look extremely fake at times and even by filming with the same cameras used in the sport to give it that 'TV' effect, it still doesn't stand up to any real or Hollywood fights, it's even got shitty 'whump' sound effects.

Wahlberg might have predictably ruined the film, but Melissa Leo as their mother makes a great middle ground between Wahlberg's stone-cold serious 'acting' and Bale's OTT method performance. She shines through and Amy Adams struggles slightly in comparison. Adams does a decent enough job but really I felt she was more of a distraction rather than a help. The story is about strong females just as much, if not more so, than strong males and Adams isn't afraid of the horrible, gossiping sisters that crowd around the film like an ancient Greek chorus. However, I feel the role was a bit too much for her and as good as she was, I felt she didn't quite have the gravitas needed.

I enjoyed watching this, but I really felt that the directing wasn't O Russell at his best, it was too similar to The Wrestler's handicam approach and there was nothing about it I can look back on and think 'that was great' - even the fight scenes weren't exactly gripping. Bale chewed up the scene alongside Melissa Leo and left everyone else in their wake. Some people will probably just big it up because it's called The Fighter and it's about boxing and is very macho macho and that's enough to keep people excited, but in truth it's overrated already. Compared to True Grit that I have just watched, it's definitely not as good, and I didn't think that was amazing either. If The Fighter gets any Oscar nods for anyone other than Melissa Leo and perhaps Bale, then it's undeserved. It touches on important issues so lightly that they might as well have been left alone - there's nothing giving it any integrity apart from the fact that it's a true story and the most interesting stuff was the real footage, which makes me rather watch a real documentary on the fighters rather than see this film again.

Rating: 7/10

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