Thursday, 3 February 2011



Wahlberg and Bale roll with the punches.

15, 116 Minutes. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams & Melissa Leo. Director: David O. Russell. Screenplay: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson

There have been rounds after rounds of great boxing movies made over the years. From the iconic 'Raging Bull' to the legendary 'Rocky' series and the critically acclaimed 'Million Dollar Baby' to the criminally underrated, classic 'Ali' and many, many more competitors. From Robert De Niro to Will Smith all leading men (and women...sorry Hilary) have straddled the ropes between their fighters battles inside and out the ring. The theme of in the corner, down-trodden individuals rising up is one of the most popular themes in American cinema for the everyman achieving everything, against all odds and rising up from nothing.

Nothing more than boxing exemplifies this. It is the ultimate form of movie escapism and fantasy of character aspiration. Now after all these epics comes the true story of 'The Fighter', where the ever unbeatable, rising Mark Wahlberg (Oscar nomination or not, come on Academy, you honoured everyone else) delivers another knockout performance portraying Micky Ward. A boxer down on his luck, reaching for the big ratings, with his prime time fading like an axed T.V. Show.

Still lucky or not for Micky he has people in his corner. His brother/trainer Christian Bale is always there for him through thick and thin as the leading man slims right, right down for his incredible dedication to this supporting role. As Micky fights for his career and his brother, (who is a crack addict) he also has affairs of the heart to deal with in the form of his ex-wife's custody over his kids and his new love interest, dolled down and played up perfectly by Amy Adams. The whole town is behind their prize fighter, even his extended family, spearheaded by his mum/manager, played with conviction by leading character actress of the moment, Melissa Leo.

Wahlberg is perfect as Micky, with his build, attitude and swinging swagger. Over the years from creating 'The Perfect Storm' or hanging with his 'Four Brothers', Marky Mark has furthered his status in this movie business and now with this role he takes the title as one of Hollywood's, leading heavyweights. The ever versatile Amy Adams also stands by her on-screen man to show that she too is quickly becoming one of the most sought after, go to female leads.

There is terrific support from all corners in this movie. Still it's Christian Bale who steals the show and probably every award coming this February with an incredible supporting, uplifting performance as Micky's down and out brother Dicky. Bale's character transformation is incredible as he really captures the real man for himself. Skin and bone, mannerism and nuance. Bale also captures the troubles, talents and terrific spirit and likeability of a local hero who once went toe to toe and round to round with Sugar Ray Robinson. Right in Oscar season Christian comes out swinging with a performance that is a testament to just how good he really is. 'Batman' may bring him the big bucks, but behind the mask the depths this leading legend will go to for a movie both psychically and mentally are unparralled.

This 'Fighter' hits you from all angles, knocking you for six. The film deals with the brushed aside issue of crack addiction in America with a sobering, serious account. This film is a journey from the bottom to the top and it really makes you sit up and take note. As for the family drama in this film. It is raw with none of the usual Hollywood shine. What's results is some real performances that will guarantee some award polishing. David O. Russell's direction knuckles up two. The boxing scenes are captured perfectly. They are real like 'Raging Bull', yet with a cinematic feel like 'Ali'. This film is all original however only taking tips from those have fought before it. It uses television cameras for the fights as a great method of capturing realism. These scenes ensure that the psychical side of this film matches the authenticity of the mental side. With a great soundtrack consisting of choice cuts from everyone from Ben Harper to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, this movie scores big on picking the right tracks two.

'The Fighter' is about to face even tougher competition this month, but as it goes bout after bout with Kings and survivors as the Oscars it stands proud. With Wahlberg snubbed unfairly by the Academy, 'The Fighter' is already taking hits, but don't count this competitor out. Even if this film ends up beaten, it really has fought the good fight. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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