The Fighter (2010)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on December 13, 2010 @

A 3-ring circus goes to Lowell, Massachusetts, in The Fighter. Based on actual events, this circus is mayhem.

In the main ring are the daredevils, led by junior welterweight boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg).

In the second ring are the clowns, led by Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) -- Micky's half-brother -- a has-been fighter and drug addict. Dicky's claim to fame is a fight he once had with Sugar Ray Leonard. Dicky is being followed by a camera crew who is filming him for an HBO documentary. The addled Dicky thinks they're documenting his comeback, but they're actually doing an expose on Crack addiction in Lowell.

In the third ring are the animals, led by Alice (Melissa Leo), the mother of Micky and Dicky, plus her seven feral daughters.

Alice thinks she is the ring master, and as promoter of Micky, she has dominated him professionally and personally. Alice gets into a furious catfight with Micky's girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) for influence over their man. They fight right up to the end when after Micky's last fight in the movie, they both kiss him passionately on the mouth.

The various acts of this circus spill over into each other's territory.

The Fighter is something of a mess. It's a slaphappy, punch-drunk brawl of a movie.

It has a bunch of spot-lighted moments and ostentatious performances. Wahlberg is the only actor who doesn't seem to be after an "award." He's blessedly cool in an oven of over-heated performances.

Christian Bale -- who took off enough poundage so that his commitment to weight loss would surely be noticed --

dances, preens, and mugs as Dicky.

Melissa Leo changes her appearance and goes blond as Alice, and uses a vat of acting peroxide as she frowns and yells.

Both Bale and Leo are distinguished, gifted actors -- they don't need to flaunt their acting wares. They seem to be trying to punch their way out of a paper bag of acting. They flit and flounder. There is nothing subtle about their antics.

Director David O. Russell slings his film together. It spins out of his control. Wahlberg tries to hold it together, but everybody around him is off doing their cacophonous thing.

Three screenwriters don't help. After a fight that seems climactic, they put Micky in another fight. [This was before his famous trio of bouts with Arturo Gatti, which aren't in the film, and aren't needed.]

The final fight in the film seems superfluous. It's the first time in a movie I didn't care who won.

The Fighter isn't Rocky.

The Fighter is Muddy.

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