Based on a true story and directed by David O. Russell, The Fighter is about the rise of lightweight boxer, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and the redemption of his entire family in Lowell Massachusetts. Seven years older than Micky, the young pride in the family, is his half brother Dicky (Christian Bale), an ex-boxer who once had all of Lowell rallying him in his big fight against Sugar Ray Leonard. That was fifteen years ago, this story takes place in the mid nineties with Dicky trying to juggle his crack addiction and training Micky. An HBO camera crew follows Dicky around making a documentary on crack addiction, but Dicky tells everyone it’s to record his comeback. He’s not kidding anyone, no one believes he could come back and he’s just an embarrassment to the whole town.
Always in Micky’s corner is his mom and manager, Alice (Melissa Leo). Problem is, the way she ignores Dicky’s drug issues and puts so much trust into him to be a major role in Micky’s career takes away from her focus on Micky. She books fights that only leave Micky scarred and bloody. When Micky starts dating Charlene (Amy Adams), a college dropout turned bartender, she’s able to see his issues from outside the family. Dicky and Alice are simply bringing Micky down and if he ever wants to make a real boxer of himself, he needs to remove them from his team. It’s easy to replace Dicky when he ends up in jail, but replacing your own mother can be difficult, especially when she’s got seven ugly, beer fed daughters to descend like an angry, teased-hair mob onto your girlfriend that they’re obviously jealous of.
Bale performance absolutely blew me away. From the weight he lost for the role to the backwards hat and baggy pants, he pulls off that nineties crackhead look far too well. He portrays the big brother who thinks he’s building up his little brother, but does not realize he won’t get out of the spotlight. Bale makes Dicky a real double edged sword, he knows how to train Micky well and has the right tactics in certain fights, but the drugs and crime are just too much. I don’t want to jinx it, but Bale may be taking home his first Oscar in a few weeks.
One detail that I really loved was the use of old HBO cameras from the nineties to film the documentary and the final fight. Not only does it feel real and gritty, but it adds to the style, it reminded me of watching an old boxing match on TV as a kid. As a child of the nineties, The Fighter has become one of the few films I can feel a real nostalgic sense of time. I remember baggy clothes, ugly patterns, backwards hats, Adidas tracksuits and when TV had that slightly grainy look. All those films glorifying the eighties right now are just missing the mark with me, I’m looking forward to my generation remembering our first full decade in the films to come.
If The Academy chooses a smart, but gritty film about family, fighting and redemption, The Fighter will win Best Picture.