Do the sports parts of “sports movies” actually have to be any good? To explain further, what I mean is, can you make a good sports film if the worst part of the movie is the bits where you portray the sport being played? I made the same argument in my review for Your Highness, I asked the question if a comedy film can be good if it doesn’t actually make you laugh. This is the problem I have with pigeon holing movies because there are plenty of films that do what they are designed to do badly but are brilliant in other areas.
Then again, is The Fighter actually a sports film? I’d argue no. I’d say it’s a drama with boxing as an element of that story. At a push it is a biopic. I certainly wouldn’t call it a sports film the same way you’d call Rocky a sports film. The reason I bring this up is because the worst part of The Fighter is the boxing. It just isn’t done very well. The best boxing films (Rocky, Cinderella Man, Raging Bull) show boxing in a raw, brutal, seemingly non-choreographed way. This is where The Fighter fails. The boxing parts of the film do seem choreographed. They seem acted and because of that you don’t really get behind Mark Wahlberg’s Mickey Ward. You wanted Rocky to beat Apollo Creed or Clubber Lang. When Mickey fought, I didn’t care.
That’s because this film, in my opinion, isn’t about the boxing. The film isn’t about sports at all. Instead it’s a film about family, in particular the relationship between the brothers, played brilliantly by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Bale actually won an oscar for this role and you can see why. From the opening scene to the final moments of the film, Bale’s character is the most engaging, unnerving and interesting part of the film. Bale won best supporting actor but he could very well have been the main star of this film and there would be a feasible argument for joint billing.
That isn’t taking anything away from Mark Wahlberg though. Wahlberg is also brilliant in this film. In fact Mark Wahlberg is slowly carving out a good solid base of roles that have shown how good an actor he is. He holds his own brilliantly in The Departed, plays off Will Ferrell well in The Other Guys as well as being a great cameo in Date Night. You can’t forget his breakout role in Boogie Nights. He can even holds his own as an action star in films like The Italian Job. Ted is one of the films I’m most looking forward to this year. You can add The Fighter to the roles that show his acting credibility, it’s just a shame that Christian Bale steps it up to his usual, high-level in this film.
The story itself kept my interest so much that I didn’t want the film to end. Watching Bale’s character self-destruct as Wahlberg’s begins to get his life together is compelling. The other characters around Wahlberg and Bale keep the story engaging too. Melissa Leo as Mickey’s mother is one of the scariest woman in film, as well as the intimidating sisters that Amy Adam’s Charlene has to get through to be with Mickey. Amy Adams is also someone who is getting better and better in each film I see her in and becoming a bit of a chameleon actress herself. It will be interesting to see what she does with Lois Lane in the new Superman film.
Mark Wahlberg has talked about a sequel to this film, that Mickey Ward’s story has more to it than what this film covers. I for one would love to see more if the story continues to be this engaging and you can guarantee that it will include Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dickey too. I’m against sequels for the sake of it but this is a story I want to know more about.
Overall, if you want a film about boxing, I’m not sure this film is for you. If you want a film about a dysfunctional family, two brothers and a drama that is interesting and engaging, then you can do a lot worst than watch The Fighter. Not one actor puts a foot wrong and with Christian Bale at his best, again, this film ends up being one of the best I’ve seen this year.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)