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04/15/2014 | Comments 0

No Holds Barred

RLJ Entertainment's new Blu-ray for No Holds Barred begins with what seems like dozens of trailers for movies starring pro wrestlers from the WWE talent pool. Each flick went direct to home video, but once upon a time — aka 1989 — one had to go to the multiplex to catch such a spectacle.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Knights of Badassdom

In 2008, the third act of the guy comedy Role Models used LARPing — live-action role-playing, that is — as a backdrop for our protagonists' lessons learned. Today, Knights of Badassdom extends that half-hour into a full feature, to the point where viewers are left not smiling, but exhausted. 
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Switched on

Not everything on television has to appeal to mass audiences. In fact, with the further fractioning of viewership thanks to alternatives like Netflix and VOD, more series can afford to become more niche. Here are five examples of shows both past and present — and new to DVD and/or Blu-ray — that encompass some of the more outrageous ideas ever to go beyond boardroom discussion.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Confession of Murder

Seventeen years after slaying 10 women and getting away with it, the charismatic serial killer Du-sok (Park Si-hoo) comes clean with a Confession of Murder, in this 2012 South Korean crime thriller. He does so by publishing a book that dishes all the grisly details.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · The Fighter

The Fighter

Rod Lott January 12th, 2011

And in this corner, ‘The Fighter,’ a knockout drama about the battles of pro boxer Micky Ward, both in and out of the ring.

Mark Wahlberg (“The Other Guys”) has gone the route of the inspirational, true-story sports picture before, in 2006’s “Invincible.”

Director David O. Russell, however, has not. He’s spent his entire career straying as far as he can from the main streets of convention. That’s what happens when your feature debut (1994’s “Spanking the Monkey”) mines the subject of mother-son incest for laughs.

What’s most interesting about Wahlberg and Russell’s third collaboration, “The Fighter,” is less about it being miles above your traditional underdog story and more about Russell being involved in this kind of thing at all.

Then again, the film is all about second chances, and Lord knows Russell could use one. His last picture, 2004’s existential “I Heart Huckabees,” flopped; he earned a YouTube-fueled rep as an on-set tyrant; he divorced in 2007; and his last project, “Nailed,” has yet to be released, partly because he was forced to shut down production before completion over money woes.

Woe be to the moviegoer who chooses not to snap up ringside seats for “The Fighter,” thinking it watereddown “Rocky.” This is better than “Rocky.” Heck, it makes “Rocky” look like … oh, say, “Rocky V.”

Wahlberg plays real-life boxer Micky Ward; that he doesn’t enjoy household-name status like Mike Tyson is to the film’s and viewers’ benefits. A professional boxer in working-class Massachusetts of the early 1990s, Ward is managed by his overbearing mother (Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”) and trained by his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale, “Public Enemies”), a former boxer himself forever boasting about that one time in ’78 when he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. (Never mind Sugar Ray actually won.)

In his day, Dicky coulda been somebody, coulda been a contender, but he’s addicted to crack, to which his family all but turns a blind eye. Micky’s pretty much the only one willing to face reality; he’s forced to in order to regain traction on a career that has slammed into a rut.

For him, the conflict inside the ring is nothing compared to what he faces daily outside, which is only heightened when his romance with a bartender (Amy Adams, “Julie & Julia”) drives another wedge within the warring Wards.

As a producer of the film, which took four years’ labor to shepherd to screen, Wahlberg has much invested in “The Fighter,” and gives it his all, delivering a fine performance as the grounded, levelheaded brawler who doesn’t pretend the odds aren’t stacked against him. But the title could well refer equally to Bale’s character, even if Dicky doesn’t have the same winning spirit coursing through his veins.

Bale owns every frame he’s in, acting the hell out of Dicky on his way toward an inevitable Oscar nomination he’s currently favored to win. Rail-thin in stark contrast to his buffed-up Batman physique, he’s all nervous twitches and empty swagger as Dicky continues living a lie. The final scene between the two brothers, in the form of a couch-to-camera confessional, gave me goose bumps, even more so than Micky’s expected third-act victory.

It’s this pinpoint-accurate poignancy that gives “The Fighter” its biggest punch.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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