Film Reviews

THE FIGHTER

By • Dec 18th, 2010 •

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Hail the brilliant, astonishing Christian Bale. He’s the only actor currently acting in movies. Bale makes a huge commitment to all his characters.

I’m ranking Christian Bale’s performance in THE FIGHTER one of the great film performances alongside Robert De Niro’s in RAGING BULL and Charlize Theron in MONSTER.

Micky Ward (Mark Walhberg) is a Boston boxer living in the shadow of his older half-brother, former boxer and now his trainer, Dicky Eklund (Bale). Dicky had one glory moment in the ring against Sugar Ray Leonard. Matriarch Alice (the brilliant Melissa Leo) is Ward’s tough-talking manager. She’s Livia Soprano with a blue-collar Boston accent in toreador pants. Her “crew” is her seven daughters.

Micky isn’t getting any younger and wants a championship fight. He’s known as a “stepping stone” fighter, used by promoters to take other fighters up in rank.

Dicky plans on a comeback, returning to the ring himself. He allows a documentary crew to follow him. But he’s a delusional crack addict who lets the crew film him on the pipe. Nevertheless, Dicky has Alice’s obsessive blind devotion. Dicky is a good trainer and Micky does need his training but once he meets up with fiery bartender Charlene (Amy Adams), he starts to see Alice and Dicky’s shortcomings. And Dicky lives on Dicky-time, not a fighter’s timetable.

Alice and Micky’s sisters do not like Charlene especially since she keeps bragging about going to college for a few semesters.

Bale’s performance is pitch perfect. I’ve seen those apocalyptic before-and-after mug shots of meth and crack addicts to know that the teeth, skin, and weight go fast. Bale’s physical performance, all loose and goosey, is remarkable. And he has a drug addict’s “devil-may-care” attitude to perfection. And when Dicky goes to jail without access to drugs, Bale gains weight.

Wahlberg also committed to the role of Micky, having trained hard and it shows. I understood the family dynamics. While Walhberg is the star and has the more subdued role as the family’s peacemaker and heir to Dicky’s legacy as a boxer, Bale is devastating as crackhead Dicky. I thoroughly believed he was smoking crack for months in preparation for this role.

If you have ever known a lifelong alcoholic or confirmed drug addict, Bale’s physical depiction is extraordinary in its authenticity. The pipe must make people happy, since Dicky is a “happy-go-lucky?” kind of guy.

I recently saw Peter Weir’s THE WAY BACK (2010) which is based on the true story of seven POWs who escaped a Soviet labor camp in the Siberian Gulag in 1939. They had to walk 1,000 miles across the Himalayas without food or water! The stars, Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and the others are starving as they cross the inhospitable, brutal terrain. Not only do none of the actors show any kind of weight loss, Sturgess seemed to gain weight. Didn’t anyone say, ‘Hey guys, lay off the craft table. You are supposed to be foraging for worms to eat!’

I was surprised that Mark Wahlberg is listed as one of the 13 producers on the film. Wahlberg worked with director David O. Russell on THREE KINGS (1999), now infamous as the film that caused star George Clooney and Russell to come to blows. Clooney said he witnessed the director shove an extra to the ground and that started their physical altercation. Clooney had previously confronted Russell over his alleged nasty behavior towards extras. And then there was the rampage footage that was leaked from Russell’s I HEART HUCKABEES (2004). Lily Tomlin and Russell were filmed going off on each other – twice. Lily was sensational!

Apparently, Wahlberg knows how to get along with Russell.

Then Christian Bale, not known for his affable personality, is cast as an anorexic crackhead. Who can forget the great music remix of Bale’s expletive-laden rant at a crew member during the filming of TERMINATOR SALVATION? (My theory is he knew his John Connor was a wimp and Sam Worthington was walking off with the movie.) And, to boot, Bale decides to spend the entire production of THE FIGHTER starving. Starving makes people irritable and hard to get along with.

I know. I live on less than 500 calories a day.

If there was trouble on the set – oh, there must have been! – when will it be posted on YouTube?

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