At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Fighter “2010”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sports Drama/ Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Frank Renzulli, Mickey O’Keefe, Jenna Lamia, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Sugar Ray Leonard, Kate O’Brien/ Runtime: 116 minutes

Wow. I honestly think it is safe to say that The Fighter is the best movie to come out of the sport known as boxing since both the Rocky series, the 5th one not included, and the Creed spin-off series. However there is a core difference between the two. That would be the fact that don’t get me wrong the original Rocky is a truly amazing movie and one constructed around the ideals of perseverance, and going the distance, but at its heart is still a wee bit of a fantasy due to, despite being built on such realistic concepts is one that also possesses a vibe that something about this film is still almost too good to be true. On the other hand, The Fighter chooses to utilize a far different method to its distinct movie madness. By that I mean this is a film that acts almost like the opposite of Rocky not from a structure point of view, but in regards to the distinct path the movie goes down for its main character to find both redemption of a personal nature, but also the success in the ring that they crave. That and if we are being honest The Fighter is a significantly grittier and realistic film and its characters are flawed yet relatable as we watch them struggle not only in the ring, but also with drugs, personal issues, and familial drama. Indeed if they have anything in their corner 24/7 it isn’t Burgess Meredith, but rather faith that one day things will get better for them. Indeed, unlike Rocky, The Fighter shows us that life isn’t always perfect, and that dreams aren’t always obtainable through simply hard work; rather you also need to have the power of both the spirit and heart in order to make it. Oh and the whole bit about getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? Well as this movie shows us those are long odds that usually work out only in the land of movie magic because true triumph will always demand trust and integrity to say nothing of an individual willing to learn from their mistakes, to forgive others, and to believe in themselves. Yes that might just like it came out of a fairy tale also due to the fact that even a person’s intentions are only as decent as human nature may permit them to be, but this film is still a darn great film because both the people at the heart of it are realistic and because of how it shows no matter how things may play out life won’t always play fair with you.

The plot is as follows: The Fighter opens as we see that a film crew from HBO Sports is in the process of making a documentary on the life of a former boxer by the name of Dicky Eklund. A man who, ever since going toe to toe with none other than Sugar Ray Leonard, has seemingly faded into irrelevance, denial, and drug usage and not entirely in that order. Be that as it may be Dicky still feels he is due for a comeback and really believes that this camera crew is there to observe him as he tries to make such an attempt possible. The guy at the heart of our story though we quickly learn isn’t Dicky, but rather his half-brother Micky who, despite some talent and heart, is seen by the majority of the fighting community as no more than a “stepping stone” for better boxers to utilize in order to rise up and earn another win on their belt. Yet whilst Micky feels that the opponent he has up next is one that he has the potential to actually do well against, he finds himself thrown for a serious loop when the card is changed at the last second and he is pushed to going up against a heavier fighter that he has no chance in heck against, but still fights simply to earn the money that his brother/trainer and mom/manager wanted to get out of it. Yet it isn’t wrong to say that, in the fight’s aftermath, Micky is a wreck and really doesn’t want to be seen in their community much to the frustration of a new woman in his life by the name of Charlene Fleming. Things soon go from bad to worse when serious mismanagement on the part of his mom to say nothing of Dicky’s issues with drugs result in Micky’s career being on the line, and Charlene’s quite vocal opinion for Micky to move on from Mom and Dicky and accept an offer to go train and live in Vegas full-time puts a crimp in his relationship with his family. Thus can our hard-swinging hero balance out this onslaught of personal dilemmas and become the man and fighter he knows he can be or will those most important to him inadvertently tear him away from who he is truly meant to be?

Now it should be noted that this film is significantly more a character-driven drama than just a straight up boxing movie due to revolving more around the struggles outside the ring than in. Indeed for a movie like this to work at its fullest potential and for audiences not only to care about the cast of characters, but to see the world they live in through their perspectives, the film requires a talented group of thespians who can with ease get to the core of the matter and comprehend just how important it is to accurately play individuals who, despite being successful in one avenue of their lives, are still far from top-notch in others whilst also dealing with the negative repercussions those struggles have on the rest of their lives. Indeed this film is magnificent when it comes to this aspect and its cast all do truly amazing work. This starts with Christian Bale who gives us one of the finest performances of his iconic career in the role of Dicky. Indeed this is a man who is both hopelessly hooked on drugs and in a near-constant state of denial in regards to both his addiction and in his ability to get back in the ring one day. I mean Bale’s metamorphosis from playing Batman in The Dark Knight to this is truly something special. Yes his range as a thespian was already showcased in films like The Machinist and American Psycho, but what he does in this something else entirely. Indeed this is one which is grounded in the worst kind of reality possible: one which is dark, and full of denial and delusion. Yet making matters worse is the fact that Dicky’s and Micky’s mom strengthens Dicky’s denial. Yes she may not be addicted to drugs, but she does view the world through a pair of glasses that distort reality and give her the ability to only see the world how she would like to see it. To that end, Melissa Leo is absolutely incredible in the part and she manages to handle the part’s caginess and fervent belief in her distortion with a precision that is top-notch. As Micky, Mark Wahlberg’s performance is just as phenomenal. Indeed Micky is the individual who finds himself constantly at odds with everything going on and it always feels like he is one step away from losing his focus and never going back. Indeed Wahlberg is not only convincing when it comes to the physical aspects of the role, but he also is able to play hurt and anxiety-ridden yet still determined guy with just the right degrees of both sincerity and power that the role necessitates. Finally we also get an incredible turn from Amy Adams in the role of Charlene aka Micky’s girlfriend. Indeed Charlene manages to function as a wild card of sorts since she manages to be both a source of inspiration for Micky yet also a source of frustration for his family. Yet despite the fact that her well-meaning and her bluntness are approached with equal doubt and scorn, she still might just be the most integral part when looking at the narrative overall.

Now as I said earlier in this review, comparing this film to at the very least the first Rocky film from back in 1976 is truly unavoidable only because of the fact that they are both about the sport of boxing. Yet I think a better comparison for this film would be one helmed by Darren Aronofsky, and which starred Mickey Rourke known as The Wrestler. I say that because both that film and this one are truly fantastic and quite hard-hitting and grounded in reality films which were vehemently opposed to hiding the conflicts that life can present: both those we bring on ourselves and those that originate from outside our control. Indeed neither of these movies feels like a fantasy and how things turn out for either film’s main character is truly secondary to both what they learn along their path as well as the redemption gained through their actions both in and out of the ring. It’s also worth pointing out how both films, courtesy of their titles, also seem to imply this is going to be more about an aspect of a person rather than the actual person themselves. Indeed it really is not clear to even this reviewer just who the titular fighter is supposed to be in this film and that, in my eyes, makes this film more beautiful than before. Indeed you could look at the title and think that it is referring to Micky since he assumedly is the main boxer of the movie, but both Micky and Dicky fit that fairly well. I say that because it is Dicky who finds himself throughout the course of the movie fighting against both himself and his demons in order to gain personal redemption whilst Micky finds himself fighting to the very top where Dicky wants to be and not for the best of reasons at least at first. Indeed it is only through the fight Dicky is engaged in against himself and his dependency on drugs that he is at long last able to become a crucial and stable ingredient in his brother achieving his own personal triumph. Thus this film may construct its characters through conflict, but it’s in their fights out of the ring rather than in the ring which are what define this movie and all that it stands for. Indeed the fact that the film’s title can be both ambiguous yet also plainly, simply, and accurately describe this film through and through really does speak odes to both how incredible the movie is as well as integral and timely the narrative it presents us with truly is.

All in all I think it is easy to let you know dear reader that The Fighter is a truly incredible if not absolutely phenomenal movie. Indeed here is a movie that manages to function on the level of excellence that it does not only because it possesses in droves an unyielding sense of realism to everything within it, but because of the work done by its main cast of truly gifted thespians. Indeed The Fighter therefore truly is a fantastic piece of movie magic and makes for a cinematic outing where the resolution of everything that happens in the plot really doesn’t matter when all is said and done. Rather, it is the individual arcs of each of the main characters in this film, regardless of where they wind up within the runtime of this film that is the genuinely interesting arena that this film chooses to invest its nine rounds in. To that end it should be said that film helmer David O. Russell’s film is a true diamond of an engrossing character study that is not only a fine movie from the year 2010, but also one of the finest of the 2010s period. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Fighter “2010” a solid 4 out of 5.