by Ross Dickie
Based on the true story of boxer Micky Ward’s unlikely rise to claim the WBU Light Welterweight title, “The Fighter” looks set to take home a few statuettes at this year’s Academy Awards. The story begins in the working class community of Lowell, Massachusetts, with Ward (Mark Wahlberg) resigned to paving roads in order to make ends meet. His half brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a washed-up, crack addicted fighter, formerly hailed as “The Pride of Lowell”, persuades Micky to get back in the ring and takes on the role of coach. Obviously, things do not go according to plan: Micky takes a beating and Dicky ends up in prison. Whilst his brother pays his debt to society, Micky takes another shot at professional boxing, this time supported by girlfriend Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams). By the time a crack-free Dicky emerges from the slammer, Micky has climbed his way up; his sights set on London and the title fight.
Although David O. Russell’s film is somewhat predictable at times, it is nevertheless one of the best boxing movies to hit our screens since the likes of “Rocky” and “Raging Bull”. The acting is of a consistently high standard and Bale – who recently picked up a Golden Globe for his performance – is likely to walk away with the Oscar on February 27th. I confess that in my sheltered upbringing, I haven’t come across many crack addicts but if I had, I imagine they would be just as manic and unhinged as Bale’s character. Wahlberg – who also teamed up with O. Russell for “I Heart Huckabees” and “Three Kings” – gives a convincing performance and apparently trained with the real Micky Ward in preparation for shooting the movie.
While “The Fighter” adds nothing new to the genre, it remains an engaging and intense piece of cinema, worth seeing on the strength of the performances alone. More than just another boxing flick, this is the story of a dysfunctional family who put aside their differences in order to achieve the most unlikely of sporting victories. Not to be missed.
“The Fighter” is released on February 2nd