Any review of The Fighter has to begin with the most astounding aspect of the film and that is Christian Bale's performance as Dicky Eklund. Bale famously lost a large amount of weight for his roles in Rescue Dawn and The Machinist and he does it again for The Fighter. His portrayal of the crack-addicted, former boxing contender brother of Mark Wahlberg's Micky Ward is the stuff of legend.
Bale is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of his generation and with his performance in the film, he only further cements that fact. Dicky talks a mile-a-minute and his attention is all over the place, perfectly contrasting the driven, underappreciated Micky. If Bale doesn't win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, it will be a crime.
Mark Wahlberg trained for three-and-a-half years to be taken seriously as an individual who could contend for a boxing title. But, it is not only his physique that is in fine form in The Fighter, Wahlberg possesses a quiet fierceness in his role as Micky that is absolutely astounding.
Wahlberg is also a producer on the film and it is because of his tenacity for telling the true story that the exceptional film truly triumphs. As the heart and soul of the film, Wahlberg -- as actor -- further illustrates that he too is quickly becoming a strong thespian presence on film. The actor is having quite a year in that realm as his comedic turn in The Other Guys shows that not only is Mark Wahlberg a good actor, but a strong comedy performer as well -- not an easy feat.
Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are perfectly cast as Wahlberg and Bale's mother and Wahlberg's girlfriend, respectively.
Leo, in particular, is on fire and shows that the Oscar nomination she received for Frozen River will not be her only career mark when Oscar nods are announced. Her character is passionate about being protective of her children, to a fault. In any other actress' hands, the performance may have felt over the top. But, with Leo centering her character, watching her in The Fighter is pure bliss.
Amy Adams also shines in a role that is a bit smaller than she has played recently. Adams is the girlfriend of Wahlberg's Micky, who gives him the confidence to strike out on his own and potentially leave his troubled family behind.
Adams' Boston accent, some have said, is a little strong, but honestly, having grown up in that area, I knew girls that mirrored Adams' character. She nails it.
One cannot heap raves on The Fighter without paying tribute to the man at the helm, director David O. Russell. There's an even-handedness to the storytelling with the emotional peaks and valleys perfectly timed. There is a challenge to not make The Fighter completely a boxing movie, and in fact, it is a movie more about family.
Russell achieves that and more. He too, should be hearing his name called when Oscar nominations are released. It is impossible to imagine the greatness of The Fighter without David O. Russell's fingerprints all over it.
Out of five stars…
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