James Helsby

LRE #43: The Fighter

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Little Red Envelope

In my mailbox this week:
The Fighter

Release Year: 2010

Staring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

I don’t usually go for Drama’s for a very specific reason. They either suck, or are just too real. The Fighter… definitely didn’t suck.

When a story is true, it takes on a different persona. It can be next to impossible to capture all of the nuances that life can really present, and condense those things down to a 2 hour running-time movie. But sometimes with a little step back, an excellent job can still be accomplished. The trick, more often than not, is to keep track of things that are lost just as much as things that are shown. And sometimes, the cutting room floor can be a cruel mistress.

The Fighter, is an academy aware winning film from 2010. It tells the story of a former welterweight boxer, Dicky Eklund, and his self delusions of making a comeback. Dicky was a true person, who boxed professionally between 1975 and 1985. His largest claim to fame, was that in 19**, Dicky was believed to have knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard during a very one sided fight (one sided, in Leonard’s favor.) Dicky had previously been knocked down twice during the fight, but when Leonard tripped and fell during the 9th round, the fight was ruled in Dicky’s favor.

And from then on, Dicky never stopped living in that moment. Flash forward 15 years, and now Dicky’s younger brother has a chance to be something great. Micky Ward, who’s fights are all being aligned by his manager/mother, can’t break out of the rut that he has been forced into. Always having to fight unknowns, or being woefully outclassed; Micky just can’t get a break. Dicky, who is Micky’s trainer is full of insight, but since Dicky is still stuck in his moment his passion has turned towards crack cocaine, rather than providing true help to his brother.

When HBO comes to Dicky to do a documentary on the evils of crack, Dicky deludes himself and others that the documentary is actually about his come-back. But Micky isn’t fooled, and knows that despite his love for his brother, Dicky is dead weight. When the right girl, and the right chance presents itself, Micky makes the winning choice to focus his attentions away from his family towards his career. But when Micky steps in to help stop Dicky from being arrested for his numerous drug related crimes, Micky suffers a potentially catastrophic injury. But with renewed determination, Micky fights back. But is he the fighter mentioned in the title? or is it Dicky.

An amazing story, to be sure. And one that is heighted by some of the most incredible acting talent I have seen in recent years. Micky, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a phenomenal character. Both soft and strong, loving and hating. His passion for doing something for himself is truely exhonerated by Walhberg’s performance. Without a doubt, it is the best performance I have seen out of Marky Mark since Boogie Nights. And I don’t say that lightly. Boogie Nights is one of my all-time favorite films.

Amy Adams… Well, I didn’t really know what to think going into the film. My most recent experience with a motion picture she starred in, was probably that horrible Enchanted or Julie and Julia, and it was interesting to see her in a realistic part. Well, realistic is a very subjective term especially when it comes to this film. I would hope that many of the characters who are portrayed specifically inside of the Eklund/Ward family are fictitious. But considering how powerful the performances were, I doubt it. Adam’s lent a wonderful onscreen performance, with her character of Charlene Fleming, Micky’s girlfriend. Perhaps the most redeeming character in the film.

The rest of the cast was actually just as amazing. Melissa Leo as Alice, Micky/Dicky’s mother, was…. frightening. That really is the only way that I can describe it. Because like I just mentioned, I really hope that there are not people like Alice in the world. And that her character was completely fake. But the truth is much more cruel, and Alice is all to real to be ignored. Melissa Leo deserved the Oscar, make no questions of it.

But while Wahlberg is the ‘lead’ in the film, he is not the focus. Let’s talk about the real grit, Christian Bale. Let there never again be a doubt in your mind about his skill’s as an actor, and his dedication to the part. While Bale can do amazing things with his body mass (in the Machinist, he dropped to 121lbs of pure bone and skin, then tacked on 100lbs of muscle for Batman Begins) In The Fighter, much of the weight loss is there again. Having dropped himself down to an estimated 160, which considering his body shape is still rather disturbing. But his weight loss for the part is only one portion of the story. In order to play Dicky, Bale did interview, and watch videos of the real like Dicky Eklund.

He built up an entire character and characterization, along with getting a excellent grasp of the real Dicky’s mannerisms.  Through the whole movie, I found Bale to be… frightening (to use the phrase again.) He looked, and felt like a strung out crack head. And while I haven’t known too many crack-heads personally, I have known a few meth-heads, and I can’t image the two being too dissimilar. But his actions, his speech, his mannerisms; all were amazing. He also truly deserved the academy award. And if you don’t believe me? Wait till the ending credits. There is a short interview with the real Dicky and Micky. And if you don’t think that Walhberg and Bale were painfully accurate to what you see, then I would be seriously surprised.

The Fighter is difficult to watch. It’s too real, too gritty, too painful, and at times too intense. But forget about all those things. It is perhaps the best drama film I have seen in years, and was glad to watch it. However, the anxiety attack it gave me was almost too intense. Don’t watch the film if you are looking for something upbeat. While it does in the even have an upbeat story, it is a long and hard road to get to that point. The Fighter is a must watch, and for once I agree with the Motion Picture Academy for nominating it for six Oscars (and winning 2)

How painful was it: Way too real. Christian Bale deserved the academy award for his portrayal of Dicky

Rating: 8/10. Make me glad to not be living in a dysfunctional family.

The Wife’s Retort: I needed something light hearted after. Who’s up for Who’s Line is it Anyway?

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