Jerry Glick reporting: With the grit of "Somebody Up There Likes Me," and fight scenes that make you feel as though you’re at Madison Square Garden, “The Fighter”, starring Mark Wahlberg as “Irish” Micky Ward, and Christian Bale as his half brother Dicky Eklund, is an engaging story of one of boxing’s most interesting, colorful, and likable characters.
The centerpiece of this story is Ward, famous for his epic battles with the late Arturo Gatti, and a left hook to the body that was lethal. His family and girl friend give reason to both smile and cry. His career was a roller coaster ride of mismatches, and near misses. His life was one of good and bad decisions.
Bale plays Eklund with such gusto that his image has now replaced that of the real Eklund in my mind’s eye. A former fighter living off of fond memories including his brave stand against Sugar Ray Leonard, he was addicted to drugs while training his brother, leading to both tragedy and triumph. A stint in prison for a scam and a physical confrontation with police help Eklund direct his life a little better.
Ward,played with great sensitivity by Wahlberg, had difficulty separating career and family, so much so that he often took bad advice from his greedy, controlling mother as portrayed with brazen charm by Melissa Leo in the role of Alice Ward.
Darren Aronofsky was the executive producer, and it was directed by David O. Russell, who had a feel for what needs to be there when telling a story of a fighter’s struggle in and out of the ring. He did it with both drama and humor included in a realistic, not over done, fashion that had its moments of blood and brutality along with, at times, uproarious humor and humanity.
At the beginning of this review I said that the movie had great fight scenes, that needs a bit of elaboration; I have been observing boxing for more than 50 years and I have seen many boxing movies but none have so resembled the real thing as did this exciting and wonderful movie.
The most important thing that I can impart here is for anyone reading this piece to understand that you need not be a boxing fan to thoroughly enjoy this movie on so many levels.
If I have anything negative to say it is that Ward’s trilogy with the late Arturo Gatti, which became the litmus test that all epic boxing matches are judged by, was not made a part of the film. And it was these fights, more than any others, that brought him into the public’s consciousness. The film should have ended on that note. Instead it ended with him winning a minor championship belt that even he ignored after winning it.
Also in the well assembled cast was Amy Adams as his tough yet lovely girlfriend Charlene. There were cameos by Sugar Ray Leonard, actor Chuck Zito, and the real Micky Ward.
The film has been rated R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.
December 8, 2010