THE FIGHTER (David O. Russell, 2010)

Thin, repetitious, hectic dysfunctional-family comedy-drama, based on actual lives, many still among the living, hence the upbeat imperative, The Fighter revolves around Lowell, Massachusetts boxer Micky Ward, whose technical knockout against champion Shea Neary won him the world light welterweight title in 2000. More specifically, David O. Russell’s film, largely written by Scott Silver, homes in on the increasingly contentious relationship between Ward and his longtime original trainer, half-brother and former boxer Dicky Eklund, whose main claim to fame is knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard—except that Sugar Ray may have tripped in the ring and knocked himself out! Regardless, even after switching management, which was originally their mother, and even his trainer, Micky weighs Dicky’s strategy, even from prison, very carefully.
     Russell’s direction fails at most everything, including the lingering shadow of Dicky’s crack addiction. Moreover, the use of handheld camera in this film is crude and migraine-inducing. Compare Regen (Joris Ivens, Mannus Frånken, 1929).
     Nor is the acting much use—with a single brilliant, lunatic exception: Christian Bale, who as the elder brother agonizes over ways to maintain his position as “the first son” while at the same time sacrificing none of his deep affection for Micky. On the other hand, Mark Wahlberg, who co-produced, is excrutiatingly slow on the uptake as Micky. There seems to be so little to him that his eventual assertion of himself within the family structure lacks all foundation. Bale’s performance is fully realized; Wahlberg’s scarcely exists. Melissa Leo, despite an Oscar (Bale also won), is both flat and shrill as the boys’ floozie-mother, and Amy Adams is inconsequential as Charlene, Micky’s girlfriend and future wife.
     Micky pursues the role of reconciling the family’s warring factions; but Russell couldn’t care less about individuating the boys’ seven sisters.


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