FSM revisits this Bostonian boxing saga nearly a decade after its release. This review was originally published on freesportsmagazine.com in December 2010.
Based on the life of boxing favorite “Irish” Mickey Ward, The Fighter fails to deliver the knockout blow which could have made it an instant classic with moviegoers this holiday season. Much like Ward’s professional career, The Fighter flirts with greatness but falls just a hair short when all is said and done.
The timeline and some of the events presented in this tale are inaccurate but nothing that is too atypical for a movie “based on a true story.” Overall, The Fighter gets the point across and the viewer leaves the theater with a good Cliff’s Notes version of the Mickey Ward story.
For a movie about a fast paced sport like boxing, this film trudges along at a snail’s pace. The fighting scenes are spectacularly exhilarating though they are few and far between and when they do pop up, they are short lived. The bulk of this film is a series of surreal interactions between Mickey Ward , his family, and of course the obligatory love interest.
This is definitely not the first boxing movie that is not about boxing. The original Rocky film did an excellent job of telling a love story using the darker side of the sport as a backdrop. The Fighter attempts to employ the same strategy but there is simply too much going on in the movie. Is this film about a dysfunctional family? A drug addict brother? A man who has lost the belief in himself? By trying to go in so many different directions, the movie spreads itself thin and ends up lacking in substance.
In terms of acting, there are a few strong performances, most notably Christian Bale as Dickie Ekland, the half-brother of Mickey Ward who is battling crack addiction. Melissa Leo (of Homicide: Life on the Street fame) also delivers as Ward’s mother who is both loveable and annoying to the viewer, often time simultaneously. And Mark Wahlberg is his typical, average, muscular self. He does well during the tough guy scenes and fails miserably when trying to invoke that sense of drama which really would have made this flick reach the next level.
Despite all the hype and Golden Globe nominations (it seems like the only prerequisite these days to get nominated is that a film is released in December), The Fighter is a movie you can wait to see in the comfort of your own home for a fraction of the price.
FreeSportsMag gives The Fighter a grade of C+