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Recently applauded by Quentin Tarantino for its “impeccable casting”, 2010’s The Fighter earned 7 Academy Award nominations and reignited the directorial career of David O’Russell, kicking him back into the A List and allowing the production of films like “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”. Rather than filling in the blanks on a “paint by numbers” sports drama, Russell decides to go the distance and swing for all 12 rounds, creating a sympathetic tale of humanity fronted by champion performances.
Mark Wahlberg leads The Fighter with his best work to date, playing the downtrodden and frustrated boxer Micky Ward. Micky is undermined by his half-brother Dicky, a local legend and former fighter whose best days are fading in the distance as he wallows in crack cocaine and pitiful denial. Giving the same extraordinary level of commitment that’s become oddly standard, Christian Bale reverts to his skeletal mode to bring the gaunt Dicky to life and gives a predictably excellent, Oscar winning performance in the supporting role.
Russell’s characters are so brimming with soulful depth that the narrative glows in their spirit, bolstered by their heartfelt authenticity. There is human sympathy reserved for all in The Fighter, even those apparently awful individuals have motives and drivers for their weaknesses; no-one displays this better than Micky and Dicky’s mother, expertly played by Melissa Leo with a performance earned a second Academy Award for the film.
Brutal fight choreography, killer acting and hard direction make The Fighter the best boxing movie of the 2000s. There’s a predictability to the final conclusion but as those irritating Facebook memes always state: It’s not the destination, but the journey.
The Fighter is available to stream on Netflix in the UK & USA.