Fight Film Friday: The Fighter

Posted: December 24, 2010 in fight film friday
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The Fighter
USA, 2010
Genre: Sports, Drama
115 minutes

Mark Wahlberg stars as “Irish” Micky Ward during his road up the world championship.

An avid boxing fan and friend to Ward, Mark Wahlberg brings the boxer to life on the silver screen in a stunning and rather unflattering portrayal of the boxer’s life at the start of his professional career. Wahlberg’s depth of character is fascinating, adding a sense of realism to what is widely regarded as a fairy tale journey. In particular, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo do amazingly as Ward’s brother and mother respectively, painting a rather harsh picture of Micky’s home life. There is no real villain in the narrative sense of the word, but watching Leo and Bale on screen is frustrating to say the least, making the ending much more satisfying after the dust settles. Also deserving note is Amy Adams, who portrayed Ward’s girlfriend Charlene. After a stint of fairly nice and sweet characters, Adams easily shakes off her Disney-clean typecasting with this performance.

Star-studded casting aside, director David O. Russell really dedicated a great deal of effort to making the film as genuine as possible. There’s a blend of conventional and documentary style camera work, often putting the audience right in the middle of the action on screen. For the actual boxing matches, Russell decided to use the old Beta cameras, along with actual audio from the HBO broadcasts of Ward’s fights. To hear Lampley, Merchant, and Roy Jones Jr. commentating adds such a dynamic sense of realism to the movie, making it all the more jarring when the action cuts away to the family watching at home, which was not filmed in such a way. Still, it’s quite obvious that a great deal of passion and research went into making this project a reality, from filming in the real Lowell, MA to bringing in Ward’s real trainer Mickey O’Keefe. It’s all of these details, big and small, that really makes this film what it is.

Wahlberg stated in earlier interviews that, while a fan of all the great boxing movies, he felt that the fights were never real enough on screen. In line with the rest of the film’s realism, the boxing matches had to be as genuine as possible. Wahlberg did all the fights himself, and brought in famed boxing coach Freddie Roach to train him in the sweet science. While the matches don’t quite measure up to the real thing, they definitely look much better than any other boxing movie to date. Ward’s signature style is easily apparent, and thanks to audio from the real broadcast, all of the fights feel absolutely like watching the event live. The Fighter is a fantastic labor of love, and is an amazing tribute to a great boxer. With its powerful storytelling and attention to details, I’m confident that this will go down as one of the crowing achievements in boxing cinema.

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