Movie Review: The Fighter

This isn’t a great movie, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while.

If you’re a fan of over-the-top boxing movies where every punch activates the subwoofer, you’ll still like this, but you won’t get that. This movie frequently cuts away from critical action in the ring to pan the audience because they obviously couldn’t afford to film all the boxing scenes like a Rocky movie would. Good for them–money was obviously spent on script and extra small takes instead.

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg are brothers and boxers. Bale got close enough to the bigtime to have a bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, but then faded. He now trains younger brother Wahlberg to regain family glory. I know, sounds boring, but it’s not. I’d have to reveal spoilers to make it less boring.

Mark Wahlberg is in full-on movie star mode throughout, but in a good way. Christian Bale is in full-on character actor mode, and in an even better way. Not a hint of brooding Batman in his performance. Who knew? Christian Bale can act.

Amy Adams plays the love interest, also in character actor mode. There’s a scene where she sashays across a bedroom in sheer black lacy bra and panties and then crawls across the bed where…well, I’m just saying, she didn’t make the movie more boring.

This is a movie about family and class. It’s reminiscent of Million Dollar Baby, except this movie is nuanced, well-written, avoids melodrama and cheap villainization, and doesn’t have anybody die for no good reason but as pathos. C’mon people, let’s admit it–Million Dollar Baby was a horrible stupid movie. It’s only raison d’etre was to let ACTORS! chew scenery. That’s why it got the Academy Award. Like The Departed, another overrated, self-congratulatory piece of …esss…that Hollywood hugged to its withered botoxed bosom.

(This trying not to swear thing is really hard for me. I hope I have your sympathy as I go through this difficult adjustment.)

If I have one criticism of this movie…actually, starting this sentence, I realized, I don’t have a criticism. It’s a very good piece of work. I can’t think of a single decision the makers made that I can second-guess.

I’ll end by saying one of the things that drew me into this movie was it started by showing clearly and unflinchingly how much poor people in America suck. They’re not unfortunate, they’re vile, often evil. At bottom, the theme of this movie is about being born into that suck-sand and what it takes to rise out of it. And what it takes to try to pull other people out who aren’t trying all that hard to hold on to the rope. And how those people will try to topple you off the bank every time you throw them a rope. And how not to get toppled.

On second thought, this just might be a great movie. Classy, understated, subtlely written, with recurring broad humor and a tangle of relationships and character arcs.

I think I’ll be watching it again tomorrow.


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