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A look at the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.
For more about The Fighter and the The Fighter Blu-ray release, see The Fighter Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Mickey O'Keefe
Director: David O. Russell
» See full cast & crew
The Fighter Blu-ray Review
This ain't no fairy tale.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 3, 2011
This is your time.
The Fighter is the best "Boxing" film since Rocky, and it might even top Sylvester Stallone's lauded classic as the finest the subgenre has to offer. Rocky is a fantastic film, one of hope, spirit, and integrity, but at its core it plays as something of a Fantasy film, a picture built on good themes of hard work and perseverance but one that nevertheless has a decidedly too-good-to-be-true vibe to it. The Fighter takes a different approach; here is a movie that's almost the antithesis of Rocky not from a structural perspective but in terms of the film's different road taken towards personal redemption and possible success in the ring. The Fighter is a much more gritty, personal, true-to-life picture. The troubled characters are real-life imperfect, struggling not only in the ring and through difficult training but with substance addiction, personal crises, familial challenges, and questioned motives. All they have going for them is faith, faith that one day things will work out for the best whether because or in spite of their actions. Indeed, this isn't Rocky; life isn't perfect, goals aren't always met, curveballs are thrown with regularity, and dreams aren't always realized through hard work alone. It takes something more than training the body, and that one-in-a-million shot? Those are long odds that usually only work out in the movies. Success requires trust and honesty, not to mention one's willingness to learn from experience, to forgive, to accept, and, yes, to believe. That might sound like the stuff of fairy tales, too, because even the best of intentions are still only as good as human nature will allow. The Fighter is a perfect movie because its people are imperfect and because life isn't always fair and it sure isn't a feel-good fairy tale, either, no matter the outcome.
HBO Sports is making a documentary on the life of former boxer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale, Rescue Dawn) who, since his famous bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, has faded into oblivion. He's a drug addict in denial but believes he's primed for a comeback, and believes HBO's camera crew to be following him on the comeback trail. His half-brother is a middling fighter named Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg, Shooter) who is seen as little more than a "stepping stone" for superior fighters to use as a means of rising in the ranks and notching another win into their tallies. Micky believes his next opponent to be one against whom he matches up well, but the card is changed at the last moment and Micky is forced into fighting a heavier boxer against whom he stands no real chance. He's soundly defeated but does come away with the paycheck his trainer-brother and mother-manager Alice (Melissa Leo, Welcome to the Rileys) so desperately wanted out of the fight. Micky's humiliated following the fight and doesn't want to be seen around town, much to the chagrin of his the new girl in his life, a former college athlete-turned-bartender named Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams, Julie & Julia). Mismanagement and Dicky's personal problems threaten Micky's career, and Charlene's outspoken support of her boyfriend to move on from his family and take up an offer to train full-time in Las Vegas puts a strain on the family. Can Micky juggle the deluge of personal problems and become the fighter he wants to be, or will those around him unwittingly drag him away from his destiny?
The Fighter is more of a Character drama than it is a Boxing picture, more of a struggle through life than a look at the challenges inside the ring. For a film like this to succeed -- for audiences to not only care about the characters, but to see their changing, difficult world through their eyes -- it needs a strong cast that need not look pretty for the camera but instead instantly and succinctly get to the heart of the matter and understand the importance of accurately portraying struggling people who, despite their successes in one area of life, are far from perfect in others, coping with the negative boomerang effect those struggles have on the small areas of triumph. The Fighter shines in that regard and its actors are its greatest asset. Christian Bale delivers the performance of his career as a washed up, has-been fighter, a man addicted to drugs, in denial of his problem, and believing that he has an opportunity to one day return to glory inside the ring. Bale's transformation from the superhero-style characters he played in Terminator Salvation and The Dark Knight to this is a remarkable feat; the actor's range was already established in the haunting The Machinist and the surreal American Psycho, but he turns in another kind of effort here, one that's grounded completely in reality, a dark reality for sure but one built around denial of everything that's ruining his life. His denial is only reinforced by his mother; she may not be a drug addict, but she sees the world through her own pair of rose-colored glasses that distort the truth and allow her to only see the world as she believes it is or, at least, wants it to be, certainly not where it is and where it is headed. Melissa Leo is superb in the role; she handles her character's feistiness and belief in a distorted reality with unmatched precision. Mark Wahlberg's effort is no less sincere; his character is the one torn from all sides, constantly at odds and near a breaking point where he may lose his focus and never regain it. Wahlberg's not only convincing in stature as a well-trained fighter, but he plays a hurt and uncertain but determined individual with just the right combination of sincerity and strength that the part requires. Lastly, Amy Adams is excellent in her portrayal of Micky's girlfriend; her character is something of a wild card, one that's both a source of strength for Micky and a source of contention for his family. Her good intentions and blunt attitude are met with skepticism and disdain, but she may very well be the most crucial cog in the greater scope of the story.
As noted, comparisons with Rocky are inevitable only because of the common theme of boxing, but perhaps a more apt comparison for Director David O. Russell's (Three Kings) The Fighter would be Director Darren Aronofsky's fantastic The Wrestler; both that film and The Fighter represent gritty, hard-hitting, reality-driven pictures that refuse to shy away from the difficulties of life, both self-imposed and brought upon by external circumstances. Neither film falls into fantasy, and no matter how things may turn out for either The Wrestler's Randy or The Fighter's Micky and Dicky are both secondary to the lessons learned along the way and the personal and familial redemption found through their actions both inside and outside of the ring. Both films, even, share in common the simplicity of their titles; "Wrestler" and "Fighter" both imply the impersonal, describing an aspect of a man, a title, rather than a more fully-defined individual. Both words, taken as verbs rather than nouns, also imply the struggles of the characters, wrestling with or fighting off the challenges of life, doing what it takes to hold on in the case of the former or beat away the odds and addictions and adversities of life in the case of the latter. Indeed, it's not even clear to whom the title of The Fighter refers, and that's the real beauty of the film. One could easily take it to refer to Micky as the centerpiece boxer in the film, but both Micky and Dicky fit the description. The latter, in particular, must through the film figuratively fight himself and the temptations of the world around him to find redemption as his brother literally fights his way to the top where Dicky so desperately wants to be, and at first not for the right reasons. It's through Dicky's own fight against himself and his way of life that he truly becomes an integral element in his brother's potential success; the film, then, builds its characters through the fight, but it's the metaphorical fight rather than the real, in-ring physical bouts that truly define the film. That even the title can be not only ambiguous but at the same time so simplistically but accurately descriptive of the movie at large speaks to the quality of the picture and both the importance and timeliness of the story it tells.
The Fighter Blu-ray, Video Quality
If it weren't for a few instances of banding, Paramount's 1080p Blu-ray release of The Fighter would have earned a perfect score. This is an exceptional transfer from the top-down, one that is incredibly cinematic in texture. The image is wonderfully crisp and very highly detailed; various location objects -- whether the well-worn odds and ends inside the gym or some of the more run-down locales around the city -- deliver pinpoint detailing in even the smallest nuanced elements, while more generalized facial details and clothing textures feature unbeatable precision. Colors are impeccably accurate with no push towards any sort of abnormal shading. Black levels, too, are remarkable, and flesh tones retain a nice-looking neutrality throughout the film. Depth is superb, clarity is exceptional, and the print is free of any unwanted blemishes. A fine layer of grain rounds a practically flawless image into form; this is a standout transfer, one that suits the film extraordinarily well.
The Fighter Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Equally impressive is The Fighter's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Paramount's audio presentation delivers great power in the various popular music tunes heard throughout the film; energetic, spacious, commanding, and with a positive low end that really brings the music full circle, the track handles every song with incredible clarity. The surround channels help the cause, too, picking up a few beats in support while also carrying a fair amount of atmospherics throughout the film, whether general outdoor ambience, the din as heard inside a bar, or the raucous crowd noises during the film's fight sequences. The bouts are accompanied by a hard-hitting low end that really emphasizes the power of the boxers's blows. The track isn't dominated by dialogue -- there's plenty of supportive elements -- but when it comes right down to it The Fighter is more of a Character drama than anything else, and Paramount's lossless soundtrack handles the critical spoken word like a champ. All things considered, this is a top-shelf audio track that serves the film extremely well.
The Fighter Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Fighter pounds out a few extras, including an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a digital copy.
The Fighter Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Fighter is an outstanding picture, one fashioned from a simple story yet built on complex themes and characters. The film works not only because of its unflinching realism but because of the performances of the primary cast; this is an exemplary work of art, a picture where the outcome of the greater plot really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Instead, it's the arc of the characters -- no matter whether they win or lose -- that's the real area of interest, and Director David O. Russell's picture is a gem of a character study that's flat-out not only one of the best movies of its kind but one of the greats of the past decade. Paramount's Blu-ray release of The Fighter features standout video and audio presentations to go alongside a few quality extras. Very highly recommended.
The Fighter: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with The Fighter (1 bundle)
The Fighter Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, March 14-20: The Fighter Wins by K.O. - March 24, 2011
The Fighter was easily the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended March 20, according to data from Nielsen VideoScan. Paramount's Academy Award winning boxing movie got 40% of its total sales from its BD version. The Diamond Blu-ray edition of Bambi, ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - March 15-21 - March 15, 2011
Depending on who you ask, the sport of boxing is either on the brink of a spectacular comeback in popularity, or stuck in a downward spiral towards an era where mixed martial arts dominated the fighting scene. Regardless, one thing has remained constant through ...
• From The Fighter Blu-ray: Christian Bale Shapes Up - March 15, 2011
Paramount Home Entertainment has made available a video snippet from the special features for the The Fighter Blu-ray, which streets today. It shows how actor Christian Bale painstakingly prepared for his Oscar-winning role as boxing trainer Dick Eklund – impressing ...
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