Monday, January 03, 2011

The Fighter

Tonight I saw The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

I won't shy away from any film that promises a shirtless Mark Wahlberg, though I must admit I wasn't excited to hear this film was about boxing. Good thing for me that there's very little boxing involved.

The story is a retelling of the true tale of two brothers who took the boxing world by storm.

Dicky Eklund (Bale) famously knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard (or, er...he slipped) in the late 70s and has been milking that spotlight ever since. He's a hero in the small Massachusetts town where they live.

Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is his only brother (though the two share seven—yes, seven—sisters) and looks up to him for this reason alone. There is not much else about Dicky to look up to. He has developed a crack habit, sleeps with whores and leaves his son with his family to be raised as an afterthought.

The training that he offers his brother would be valuable if he could stay clean long enough to see it through, but he can't, and the results are disastrous.

Lucky for Micky, he soon meets Charlene (Amy Adams) who has dropped out of college and works at the local bar. Yes, she is apparently the classiest broad in town.

Speaking of broads, the boys' mother Alice (Melissa Leo) is a real piece of work. Chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, hairspray-addicted and determined to make some serious cash off her sons, she is the very epitome of white trash. When she's not yelling at her beer-drinking, lounging daughters, she's organizing a fight to try to advance Micky to a Dicky level of spotlight.

It's just not working.

So Charlene convinces Micky to ditch his troubled family and the rest is pretty much as predictable as a Wheel of Fortune puzzle with only one letter missing.

It's not a terrible movie, and I'll admit I was entertained for the duration, but what's really bugging me is all the press that Christian Bale is getting for his performance.

I've always liked Bale, but here he seems to be playing this crack addict as a mentally challenged lunatic instead of a street guy who is high all the time. I grew up in a neighborhood of drug users and never once do I remember the crack users having perpetually popped eyes. They were jittery and nervous and hollow, but not exactly retarded.

On the flip side, Wahlberg's never been more understated and that was a welcome change from his usual too-angry portrayals.

And the women, well, they were fantastic.

Melissa Leo is a bit much as the annoying Alice, but I'm guessing the real woman was probably just as obnoxious; Amy Adams and her boobs aren't anything like the innocent Junebug and Enchanted characters we've seen her inhabit before, and it's hard to take your eyes off the screen when she's there. The seven sisters? Hilarious.

I had more fun with this movie than I expected to, but that's perhaps because my expectations were low.


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