“The Fighter”

“The Fighter” is a far too literally titled movie about a group of cowardly men who only know how to express themselves through violence or silence and their female counterparts who are twice as loud and commanding and almost as masculine. David O. Russell, a gifted director, does not seem to know where to settle his film – in almost any sense.

The movie is an emotional and visual mess. It’s hard to understand why, for instance, Melissa Leo’s Alice, would be such a heartless, manipulative monster in one scene and a sympathetic, loving mother in the next. I argue that this has little to do with character depth; it’s merely narrative convenience. The script requires major character changes to take place, but these changes are usually unwarranted. The script also lulls through the story, seeming to yank its characters along because it’s obligated to. This is most evident in the lead, Micky Ward, who pouts his way from one fight to the next instead of manning up against his oppressive mother and brother. Mark Wahlberg is not bad in his performance, but his character is a sad sap and totally upstaged by his brother, Dicky, played by Christian Bale. (Don’t believe me? Just look at the film’s poster.)

I’m also disappointed in Russell for his visual choices. He mixes mediums, shooting the fight scenes on Beta video – the way HBO shot the real fights in the 90s. But this comes off as a gimmick, especially considering the sound design refuses to commit to the TV fight or the film itself. (During these scenes, we hear both the TV commentators and obscure dialogue from characters sitting just outside the ring. This immediately plays as false.)  The cinematography is sometimes maddeningly bland and sometimes ostentatious, so the film’s gritty quality is undermined by its own camerawork.

So inconsistent is “The Fighter” that the conclusion, which should be triumphant and inspiring, feels more like nap time.

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About Collin Damon Welch
Collin worked in the film/TV industry for a while. Now he's pursuing ministry. He and his incomparably beautiful wife Nicole live in Chicago.

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