I hope that Christian Bale is already practicing his acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Besides the fact that the infamous method actor sculpted himself into a 120 lbs crackhead for the movie (he's done that AND WORSE for movies before though), he also blends a perfect mix of sympathy, comedy and suffering into arguably the best performance of his career. He plays Dicky Eklund, the brother of famous boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward, who's played by Mark Wahlberg. Besides also being joined by the beautiful and extremely talented Amy Adams, you won't recognize another actor in this movie directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees). This is his finest work as well. Be warned, the film is very misleading. You know it's about a boxer and the film is called The Fighter, but it's not the cliche sports movie you've seen over and over again. I would say this might be the best Boxing movie since Rocky and, in some aspects, might even give it a run for its money. Yes, the Boxing parts of the movie feel like they could be interchangeable with any other Boxing movie to ever come out (although Russell really impressed me by switching his camera to a digital one for the fights to give it more of a Pay-Per-View look) however Boxing has very little to do with the movie. This really is a movie about a family dealing with addiction. Bale's character is addicted to crack. Wahlberg's character is addicted to his brother. And Alice the mother, who is played amazingly by Melissa Leo (Frozen River, Conviction) is addicted to the fame. Everyone in this, with the exception of Wahlberg, deserves a nomination. It drips with talent. And hats off to Russell for also casting many locals in key parts that make you shake your head wondering "where the hell did they find these people?" Well, they found them in Lowell, Mass, where it all took place. Russell even allowed Mickey's trainer, Mickey O'Keefe, play himself in the film. Everything feels more like a documentary with it's shining authenticity and handheld camera work. It's true that the movie reminds you of something you've seen before. It has the archetype of almost every sports film but it also has the archetype for every poor family struggling with drug addiction. But rarely are those stories told together with so much talent and attention to detail put into it. If you're looking for a sports movie, you'll get one eventually but you have to wait a while for it. If you're looking for a family drama, you'll get one right away but you'll have to appreciate the Boxing too. My wife had zero interest in seeing this with me but went just to make me happy. By the end of the film, we were both sitting in the darkened theater with tears in our eyes and a desire to see it again. In fact she liked it more than I did. The Fighter won't win Best Picture because there are too many other movies that are just slightly better, but it deserves to be considered one of the Top 10 films of the year without a doubt...and doesn't have to fight to get there.
The Fighter (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A+