Thursday, August 11, 2011

"31 Movies, 31 Days": #6 The Fighter

Movie: The Fighter (2010)
Budget: $25 million

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Format: Netflix Streaming

Now that I've finally gotten around to seeing The Fighter, I need just one more movie to complete my "have seen" set of the ten 2010 Best Picture nominees. I'll get to you soon, True Grit...just you wait. Given the fact that I'm a huge fan of director David O. Russell, as well as a huge fan of the sweet science (aka pugilism, aka boxing), it's somewhat surprising I waited this long to see The Fighter. As you may remember, though, I'm not a fan of Christian Bale, and I also find Mark Wahlberg to be a dull, one-note actor. Really, Wahlberg is just a prettier, softer-spoken version of Michael Rappaport. Wahlberg plays his one note well enough in The Fighter, but it's Christian Bale's Oscar-winning performance that finally earns him my respect.

Bale famously lost a LOT of weight for his role in the dark and disturbing The Machinist, and his body undergoes a similar transformation here. Playing a meth addict with a personality as big as his drug problem, Bale is simultaneously charming, hilarious, pathetic and depressingly real. One of the more impressive aspects of The Fighter is just how true to life it is. While there is some dramatization in the "based on a true story" script, the characters and events---crazy though they may be---are stunningly accurate. Bale isn't over the top---it's his real life counterpart that was over the top. The same is true of Melissa Leo's Oscar-winning performance as the mother of the two half-brother fighters. Leo hams it up real good, but folks, that's really how Alice Ward was in real life.

Another true-to-life aspect of The Fighter are the fights themselves. I remembered these matches from having seen them on television, and they were exactly as I remembered them. The resemblance was so uncanny, in fact, that I went back and checked them out on You Tube. Punch for punch, the fights are identical. They even used the actual commentary from ringside in the movie. Unlike in other boxing movies, there's no need here to create false drama in the ring. The truth was far more interesting than any fiction they could have created. This authenticity gives The Fighter a little "extra punch." Yep, I went there.

While the final act does become a bit too much like a traditional sports movie (hello, training montage), The Fighter is an exceptional sports movie with superb performances and a real-life story that is both moving and, surprisingly, funny. The Fighter is a "knockout." Yep, I went there, too.

Kraig's Rating: 8/10

Movie #1: Skyline
Movie #2: Killers
Movie #3: The Iron Giant
Movie #4: The Adjustment Bureau
Movie #5: Rubber


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