If you had a chance to watch “Irish” Micky Ward fight during the tail end of his boxing career(especially the epic battles with Arturo Gatti) you were treated to some of the greatest fights in recent memory. Ward’s journey to win the WBU Light Welterweight Championship in 2000, against Shea Neary, at the age of 34 seemed like a story straight out of a Hollywood script. Sure enough, Hollywood was paying close attention as the real life story of Micky Ward hits the big screen in Paramount Pictures The Fighter.
The Fighter stars Mark Wahlberg as Mickey Ward, and Christian Bale as older brother Dicky Eklund. Director David O. Russell does a superb job of integrating the audience into Ward’s community and family at the outset of the film. Set in Lowell, Massachusetts, Ward has been managed and trained his entire professional career by his dysfunctional family (brother Dicky trains him, his mother Alice is the manager). One disappointing loss after another begins to take its toll on Ward. So much so, that Ward begins to question his future in professional boxing.
With his professional career at a crossroads, Ward is lucky enough to meet a local woman named Charlene (Amy Adams) who begins to point him in the right direction. With the help of Charlene, Ward soon realizes that his talent isn’t the determining factor for his recent failures. Instead, Ward realizes that although his family cares about him, they aren’t providing a stable environment, which in return is hampering his chances at of every making it in the sport he loves.
If you are a true boxing aficionado, you will respect how the boxing scenes are portrayed in the movie. First, the actors threw and absorbed actual punches during the filming. There aren’t any phantom punches in these boxing scenes (ex. Rocky Balboa missing Apollo Creed on a right hook, yet Creed still falls back). Second, the filmmakers decided to bring in an HBO camera crew and film the fights from the same multi-angle perspective that HBO uses on all of its pay per view fights.
The filmmakers do a great job in this respect. I actually pulled the real footage from the Ward vs Neary fight after watching the film. I must say, it is spot on. The movie fight scenes even use the same commentary that aired during the actual fights shown on HBO (Jim Lampley, George Foreman, and Larry Merchant provide the ringside commentary). All of these aspects provide for some of the most realistic boxing scenes I have yet to see out of a boxing
In the mold of Cinderella Man and Rocky, The Fighter is an uplifting story of a man who excels against all odds. The story is just as much about Ward’s family struggles, as it is about boxing. However, in the end, it is the boxing aspects within the movie that really make it shine. Ward, a likable underdog, will have you rooting for him from the opening scene. Christian Bale gives a performance for the ages as Ward’s brother Dicky. It is rare to see an actor totally transform himself into the character he portrays, yet Bale seems to one of the few actors in the business who regularly brings this to the table. Bale’s performance in this movie will be remembered for years to come (stick around for the end credits in which the real life Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund are shown).
If you love realistic sports movies with character driven story lines, then The Fighter delivers in every category. Even if you’re not a fan of boxing, the acting alone delivers a knockout punch that is guaranteed to inspire you. I highly recommend this movie.