The Fighter Movie Review

There’s a locker room scene between Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg – about two-thirds of the way through the film – that best defines the unbalanced problems with David O. Russell’s The Fighter.  Here you have the dynamic acting chops of Bale going toe-to-toe with the subtleties of Wahlberg in the arena of acting and the clear winner (Bale) essentially has no real competition.  He practically dominates everyone in this film – including his pretend brother.  Wahlberg is a blank face (and maybe too subtle for the director to notice) while Bale – who has physically morphed his Batman body into a crack addict’s skeletonized form – acts all over and against Wahlberg almost to the point of self-parody.  I know, I know, it’s Bale you say.  Regardless, the end result is the same.  Bale wins the Overacting belt with a knock-out punch in this parnership.

Based on a true story and emerging somewhat from an HBO documentary about crack addiction, The Fighter tells the story of Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his one-time boxing celebrity (he once took on Sugar Ray Leonard) brother Dickie (Bale) as they work from the slums of Massachusetts for a shot at the welterweight title.  Against the odds.  Against an unsupporting and obnoxious family.  Against the tide of people turning their back on him.  For self-respect.  For his girlfriend (Amy Adams).  Sound familiar?  Yeah, it is very much like that “little” film from 1976 that spawned five sequels…except this time, thanks to a smattering of overacting and a change in the decades, you could care less about this working-class plight for the gold.

The film is also note-for-note status quo as far as sports movies go.  Nothing new and energetic.  Everything old.  Surprising, considering this movie is brought to you by the highly-charged director of Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees.  With none of his usual flair, Russell presents a casual re-telling of the slumming underdog for audiences once again.  It's a story that will probably never get old.  Except this time we trade a gambling addicted brother-in-law for a crack addict in the ruined life of Dickie.  Micky’s dominating mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and his never-ending amount of hair-poofed denim-wearing sisters leech their way onto Micky’s life feeding off him like the parasites they are.  He might be a "stepping stone" boxer, but he’s too spineless to recognize that he doesn’t need any of their crap in his life.  At all.  None of it.  Even Adams as the sweet girlfriend Charlene falls victim to those familial annoyances by the end of the movie.

Disappointed in the all-too familiar boxing scenes (there aren’t a lot) and unmoved by the thankfully brief training montage [and the (intentionally?)hilarious inclusion of Whitesnake's 'Here I Go Again' as Micky's theme song], The Fighter can’t deliver its thrills on the sport of boxing alone.  Unfortunately, the picture gets bogged down with some pretty shrill and painfully Jerry Springer-like family drama.  In fact, the dysfunctional drama is far too real and too overloaded for a picture that seems to have its eyes on something bigger: commercial success.  These folks – and I do mean every single character of the movie - are self-destructive hooligans and they aren’t a joy to watch enact their self-serving purposes on the silver screen.  It’s entirely too much work for its audience who wants to be entertained, not pan for gold.

Raw?  Painfully so, but “raw” doesn’t equal good all of the time and with The Fighter, raw equals some seriously awful chain-smoking loudmouths that renders its audience a little too punch drunk with their antics.  These are awful characters and they dominate the screen.  How good is your patience?  Mine lost that battle in the first twenty minutes of this crank-fiend world.  And I shouldn’t have.  Even forgiving its flawed storytelling, I held out hope that Micky would recognize – at the end – the uselessness of his family.  He doesn’t; he encourages their continued participation.  He’s the “good” son and, as established through Wahlberg's interpretation and Russell's direction, that fact alone seems to be enough to base a movie upon.

Tonally, the film doesn’t allow for the audience to laugh at these people.  And why should it?  In this day and age, the plight of the poor is not so very far from any one of us.  There are a couple of scenes provided by Micky’s father where laughter is invited, but – in doing so – the roles are diminished into caricatures, not actual characters.  One-note, self-serving caricatures.  It’s not very fun to laugh at these low-income earners and they certainly don’t earn our respect, but, by the end of the film, it becomes clear that the screenwriters don’t know exactly what to do with these “interesting” characters no matter the reaction.

The Fighter is straightforward unadventurous storytelling; it doesn’t dazzle its audience, it tests.  Without any developed feelings toward Wahlberg’s journey in the ring, we simply watch what we expected from the storyline all along.  Ultimately, I just wanted to be done with the dysfunction and take a shower.  Bale can act, but his pop-eyed persona might chomp too much scenery at times to keep its audience in tune with Wahlberg’s story and it alone certainly isn't a reason to sit through the film.  As much lauding as I am sure he will get for it, there are those - like me - who feel that its a bit much at times...and ripe for parody.  Bring on the SNL skits already.

I know this is a true story.  I know these people are real and I also know this review is essentially me vs. the world, but I liked this movie a hell of a lot better back when it was called Rocky…at least then I had someone to applaud.

2 stars



The Fighter Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.
Director: David O. Russell
: Scott Silver
Cast: Mark Wahlberg; Christian Bale; Amy Adams; Melissa Leo
Genre: Sports | Drama
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's sad that you let them take it away from you."
Release Date: December 17, 2010.
Blu-ray Release Date:
March 15, 2011

Synopsis: The Fighter tells the story of Boston fighter "Irish" Mickey Ward and how he was helped to the world lightweight championship by half-brother Dicky Eklund. Eklund once decked Sugar Ray Leonard and went the distance against the boxing legend before forfeiting his career to drugs and crime. He redeemed himself by training Ward through his Rocky-like run to the title.


 DVD/Blu-ray Details

the Fighter - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
2 stars
3 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
2.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 15, 2011
Screen Formats: Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC; Video resolution: 1080p; Aspect ratio: 2.40:1; Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy



  • Feature-length audio commentary track with Director David O. Russell

Special Features:

  • The Warrior's Code: Filming The Fighter (1080p, 29:57)
  • Keeping the Faith (1080p, 8:33)
  • Deleted Scenes (1080p, 16:53)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 2:32)


DVD/Digital Copy Disc