‘Fighter’ knocks out its competition

Reed Belmonte

This is a one-of-a-kind underdog boxing epic; a delicious recipe of heart, tragedy and triumph. Like any other boxing drama, it’s an examination of a common struggle of American life, and a main character literally beaten the floor, only forced to get back up again saying “I’m not done.” Although a corny title tags onto the film, “The Fighter” is a great American tale nonetheless.

Mark Wahlberg is the alleged center subject of “The Fighter” as real-life Boston boxer Micky “Irish” Ward. Struggling to maintain his composure during a disappointing losing streak, Ward battles between taking his fighting in a new direction and turning his back on his mother and lifetime manager (Melissa Leo). However, the film really seems to be a journey of two fighters: Ward, and his older brother/boxing mentor Dickie Eklund (Bale), a veteran fighter whose crack addiction and troubled ways halt Ward from any paramount accomplishments in the ring. That’s when Wahlberg meets his muse; bartender Charlene (Adams). Instead of playing the cliché girlfriend cowering away to the thought of her hunk getting hurt, her character succeeds wonderfully with a ‘shut up about your feelings and get in the ring’ attitude. She’s a great addition to the film.

This is the second time David O. Russell has stepped into the ring with Mark Wahlberg, previously with the notable “Three Kings.” Russell is quite the charismatic filmmaker when it comes to characters reflecting the location around them. In “The Fighter,” the underbelly of a working-class Boston is illustrated thoroughly in every actor, right down to the broken down neighborhoods and the fight scenes, which are absolutely mind-blowing. It was the exact equivalent of stepping back to the 1980s and watching an HBO prize fight. I look forward to Russell’s future projects.

With great performances from Wahlberg and Adams, and fantastic 1980s-style cinematography of the fight scenes, there’s one shining beacon that will pave the way for “The Fighter” as we approach the Oscar season: Christian Bale. In probably his best performance since ‘The Machinist,’ Bale dives into the role so well as a washed-up boxer still living in his past. His execution is as haunting as an episode of “Intervention,” while inspiring the unbreakable bonds of brotherhood between him and Wahlberg’s character. It’s simply grade A acting.

In spite of a tearful storyline that keeps you constantly engaged, the ending is very predictable. After all, it is a story about boxing. Nevertheless, the climax still brings you to your feet, down to the last scene between Bale and Wahlberg in the corner of the ring. I’m not going to lie, I was even choking up a little bit.

Like I said, this is a typical boxing film. The greatest sports movies ever are always centered around something much more than a sport. “The Fighter” isn’t an outrageously dramatic bore-fest, and isn’t some action flick with constant punches. I’d be very surprised to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy this film as much as “Rocky” or “Remember the Titans.” It’s truly a true classic.