Netflix UK film review: The Fighter
Ivan Radford | On 20, Jan 2015
Director: David O’Russell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Watch The Fighter online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is a boxer – not a great one, but a good one. He’s the younger brother of Dicky Ecklund (Bale). Dicky’s a boxer too. He once knocked down Sugar Ray. Now he spends his days smoking crack and talking nonsense to a video camera.
The camera belongs to an HBO crew, who are filming a drugs documentary, but Dicky thinks they’re making a movie about his big comeback. Which probably explains why he spends every scene jumping up and down for the camera.
Micky’s mother (Leo) doesn’t help much; she’s obsessed with Dicky’s comeback too, the pair managing Micky and holding him down while he tries to break the big time for himself. Soon enough, Micky meets feisty bargirl Charlene (Adams), who nurses Micky as his losses rack up. Beaten to a pulp by a black guy 20lbs above his weight, Micky’s a bloody mess for their first date. If only he stuck to the plan from his brother, Dicky. Dicky knows best. Which is probably why he spends every scene jumping up and down for the camera.
Things proceed in the usual fashion: run-down estates, screwed up families and overly dramatic music. But David O’Russell is a director who knows how to get great performances from his cast, and they put enough heart into the story to make it engaging. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are excellent foils, one a bleach-blonde chain-smoking tyrant, the other a college drop-out with a hot temper and earnest doe eyes. Amid the bickering, bitching and occasional boxing, Wahlberg’s quiet resentment simmers nicely in the background.
But of course, the movie belongs to Best Supporting Actor Bale, whose gaunt face and withered frame set him directly on the path to Oscar victory. The film opens on his rambling exposition, which shows how much emphasis the script places on the fallen champ. No wonder he spends every scene jumping up and down for the camera.
Handhelds are the order of the day – the whole thing has an intimate feel that apes The Wrestler but never beats it. Still, Wahlberg’s in-the-ring action is well cut with archive footage to keep things realistic. Perhaps that’s The Fighter’s biggest emotional blow: it all happened just a few years ago. The result is not a great film, but a very good one. As long as you can put up with Christian Bale spending every scene jumping up and down for the camera.
The Fighter is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.