To paraphrase the Sports Guy, the ‘underdog boxer’ genre has probably been worn dry. Like the gangster genre, boxing has created some of the greatest films ever made (with the Rocky series and Raging Bull immediately coming to mind). The standard is ridiculously high. I go with that lead in to say The Fighter is a good film but not the best of its genre. It’s based on the true story of Micky Ward and his older brother who was also a boxer but had a serious drug problem. (As an aside, the film ends with only a title card mentioning the Ward-Gotti trilogy. This got a giggle out of me as a casual boxing fan, don’t get any hardcore boxing fans started.)
Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, but the heavy lifting in this film is done by Christian Bale as the older brother and Melissa Leo as the overbearing mother of the boys. This is the second time I’ll cop to a film geek bias: there’s a generation of kids who think of Bale as Batman (and I’m not complaining). But to see him here in the loser brother role, I thought he was good, but I also have seen enough of Bale’s work over the years to not be overwhelmed by his performance. A lot of people say he has the inside track for Best Supporting Actor in a few months. If that’s true, I’ll be cheering for him, but I don’t know if I like Jeremy Renner’s performance in The Town better. By the way, Daniel Day-Lewis, if nothing else, let’s agree the Method torch has officially been passed to one of these two guys.
Film snobbery aside, when we finally got to the title fight in the third act, I was into it. The music, Bale’s “you’re doing this for all of us” speech, Mom and a ‘plain-looking’ Amy Adams in the front row, it was all done effectively. Walking out, I was actually that Mark Wahlberg should get credit for not ‘hi-jacking’ the movie away from the supporting actors (being the ‘lead actor’ but not ‘the star of the movie’ is a talent, I’m now convinced). Maybe he took pointers from Bale who is in a similar boat playing Batman to Heath’s Joker a couple years back.