Fighting American

The Fighter, written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington, directed by David O. Russell, starring Mark Wahlberg (Micky Ward), Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund), Amy Adams (Charlene Fleming) and Melissa Leo (Alice Ward) (2010): Micky Ward, a real boxer who fought in the Junior Welterweight and Welterweight categories in the 1980’s and 1990’s, starts off the movie as a mismanaged stepping-stone for younger up-and-coming boxers.

He’s managed by his mother (Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Melissa Leo) and crack-and-meth-addled older half-brother Dicky (Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Christian Bale), the latter of which was once a contender but who is now, basically, a bum living off his reputation in Lowell, Massachusetts. Micky chafes at his mismanagement — as the movie opens, he’s about to get pummelled by a boxer 20 pounds heavier than him — but remains passively bound to his family, despite management offers from high-profile boxing promoters.

Then along comes Charlene Fleming, a bartender who quickly falls for Micky and starts trying to get him to take command of his own life. It takes awhile (actually in real life a lot longer than it seems to in the movie), but Micky finally gets someone else to arrange boxing matches for him, and he starts winning again. But he still loves his incredibly loopy family. When a now-clean Dicky gets out of jail after serving time for assaulting a police officer, Micky seems to be stuck with deciding between girlfriend and family. Or has Dicky changed?

The film remains pretty true to its true-story roots, though it ends at a curious place — just prior to the three fights with Arturo Gatti that would cement Micky’s reputation as one of the toughest boxers to ever fight. Bale and Leo are solid in their award-winning roles, and Wahlberg and Adams are fine, too, in their less showy performances. David O. Russell’s direction is also solid, though a framing narrative of characters speaking directly to the camera is underused and, frankly, not necessary. Recommended.

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