Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Review: The Fighter

Like Scorsese and DiCaprio, David O. Russell has found his leading man in Mark Wahlberg, and boy does Marky Mark respond to Russell’s direction. Arguably his best performances have been in Gulf War thriller Three Kings and existential drama I Heart Huckabees (as well as great turns in The Departed and The Other Guys) but those have well and truly been eclipsed by his portrayal of Micky “Irish” Ward in The Fighter. Wahlberg’s performance has been overlooked for any critical awards, but when sandwiched between Christian Bale in ‘method mode’ as Micky’s boxing-has-been crack-addicted older brother, and Melissa Leo’s domineering matriarch it’s not difficult to be disregarded, especially when your performance is largely rooted in being the silent observer; the subject of the arguments but never involved in them. Although Bale, Leo and all the crazy Massachusetts’s figures make this blue-collar world buzz with emotion, outspoken opinion and a strong sense of family obligations, it is Micky who is caught in this whirlwind around him, almost passing through meant for greater things.
Aside from the stellar performances and powerhouse acting, The Fighter fits the traditional mould for a boxing movie: down-on-his-luck hero fights back to celebrity status against the odds. It’s the age-old ‘underdog’ story done a million times before, but somehow The Fighter felt original and like it was the best of the crop - O.Russell utilises Aronofsky’s grimy shooting style; all organic grime. The grimy backstreets of Lowell are reminiscent of Affleck’s Boston, all white slat houses and familiar neighbours; where people never leave the street they grew up on and anyone who went to college is tarnished with a sanctimonious brush by the locals - outsiders and white-collars are not welcome.
Aside from being a relatively serious film, dealing with issues from crack addiction to family loyalty, there is still some comic relief, namely in the form of Micky and Dicky’s seven sisters - reminiscent of the two prostitutes interviewed in Fargo - as they bicker and argue with frown unerringly at Micky’s love-interest, Charlene, because she is some ‘MTV girl’ - which means she’s wild! What more, we see Dicky’s hair-brained schemes to make money, and his crazy escapades to avoid his mother knowing about his addiction - something never actually spoken about between the family until a revelatory TV show.
To finish off a the hat-trick of five-star movies in 2011 (with The King’s Speech and Black Swan) I am delighted to have had such a positive cinematic experience in January, with 127 Hours also delivering the goods, but not quite climbing to a revered five star rating. The Fighter is gritty, funny with compelling performances from its two leads and has usurped Raging Bull as my favourite ever boxing movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment