Mark Wahlberg has played the modest athlete in the economically-challenged town before, but The Fighter combines the elements previously seen in Invincible with a stronger emphasis on the challenges of a strong-willed family and the challenge of making the right choices for oneself instead of letting others rule your life. The film begins with Micky Ward and David Eklund, two brothers who are both boxers with very different priorities. Ward is a modest, hard-working man who lets his family decide his life. Eklund is a former fighter suffering from a major drug problem who has dreams of finding the spotlight again. Ward meets Charlene Fleming, a bartender who falls for his authenticity but struggles with his overbearing mother and delusional brother. With a shot to regenerate his career, he must make a choice to distance himself from his family or give up the chance to live his dream.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (Micky Ward), Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund), Amy Adams (Charlene Fleming), Melissa Leo (Alice Ward), Mickey O’Keefe (himself), Jack McGee (George Ward)
Wahlberg’s portrayal of Ward is fairly similar to Vince Papale, though his character seems less able to make decisions for himself than in Invincible. While Wahlberg does just enough to represent the struggles of making the right choice, Christian Bale’s representation of the drug-addict brother steal the show. He initially represents someone so far gone that he makes up his own reality of why the camera crew was following him (not to cover his attempt to reestablish his career and relive his days fighting Sugar Ray Leonard but to represent his drug addiction). After the release of the documentary, you experience his internal struggle trying to reconcile his decisions and make the best decision for his family. Amy Adams stretches her talent to pull out a strong Massachusetts accent, but Alice Ward, played by Melissa Leo, makes you love to hate her lack of care for her son over the delusion of what he can provide for the family.
With this being based on a true story, there is a stronger opportunity to relate to the stories and the characters. The representation of the town of Lowell may be one focused on the poverty, but it captures the reliance on small celebrity to provide pride for its people. Much of the area is fairly run down and the people are across the board, from decently comfortable living to poor, drug-reliant culture. The inspirational side is fairly obvious but blended into the story through both the actual fights for Ward and the conflicts between his family and Fleming. It is a strong story that stays fairly dreary but there are a few bright spots with the fighting between Ward’s family and Fleming.
This is an inspiring movie that follows a great genre of comeback sports stories. While it may not be the frontrunner for the Oscars, it certainly provides a snapshot of a challenging time for a boxer and his family and his attempt to recover lost dreams.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5