Friday, December 31, 2010

The Fighter

The Film: The Fighter

The Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, and an assorted melange of colorfully authentic local peeps.

The Dealio: Micky Ward (Wahlberg) works repairing roads in Lowell, Mass. His real calling, though, is as a fighter. What is referred to as 'a stepping stone'- his in-the-ring encounters result in him kissing canvas while his triumphant opponent moves up a notch in the rankings. His older half bro, Dickey Eklund (Bales), AKA "The Pride of Lowell", is a meth-head brawler and ne'er-do-well who scored one glorious moment by knocking out Sugar Ray (or, as some claim, sharing the ring with Sugar Ray when he slipped and fell). He is also Micky's trainer- when he can pull himself away from the dope and his similarly occupied buddies. Into the mix comes an HBO crew, filming a special. Dickey and his mom believe the subject is the comeback of Dickey to the ring What it actually is, is a cautionary doc about what meth addiction does, not only to the addict, but also to his family- and the small, working-class town that sees him as a chance to spruce up their spotty public image. Adams plays the bartender with some college education, but as messy a past as Micky's present circumstances. Into this highly volatile mix, throw Micky's six sisters, all squarely in Dickey's corner and united in their dislike for 'MTV girl' Adams, (who responds to their label with the pungent rejoinder, 'What the eff does that even mean?'), committed to her man, but also able throw an efficient punch herself, if the occasion calls for it.

The Grading Session: 5.12 pengies out of 5. Based on a true story, this one hits all the benchmarks of a really well-crafted film. It is anchored by outstanding work by Bales- not even recognised by Prendie until the end of the flick- and Leo. Bales amps up the whoo-who! I'm a nutter! side of the character, but also sneaks in touching, tiny grace notes. His quiet persistence in whispering his brother's 'theme song' in his ear as they approach the ring-to choruses of boos from the hostile crowd-was remarkably moving, but so subtle that you could easily miss it if you weren't paying attention. This sort of modulated performance only comes from a truly great actor. But no one here puts a foot wrong; all are riveting and stunning in their turn. And the music is good, too. You should see this one.

Lessons Learned: If HBO shows up at your doorstep, wanting to follow you for a 'special'...find out, first, what, exactly they are documenting. Also- moms really, on average, do not make great managers (Hello? Paging Dina Lohan!). Lastly- do not pick a fight with a fighter's sisters or his girl. Cuz, I promise you this, my friend, you are so goin' down for the count!

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