‘The Fighter’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated December 19th, 2010 at 8:36 pm,

The Fighter movie reviews The Fighter Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews The Fighter

There are a lot of people who will go into The Fighter expecting to see the next Rocky or Cinderella Man – i.e., blue-collar fighter overcomes personal hurdles and/or demons to become a champion and American icon against all odds.

Well, imagine taking that cinematic cliche and rubbing it in the dirt while still managing to give it a touch of wit and a heavy dose of charm. If you can visualize that strange image, you’ll understand exactly what director David O. Russell has created with The Fighter.

This true-life story follows “Irish” Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a welterweight boxer living in the working-class town of Lowell, Massachusetts during the early ’90s. Mickey – labeled a “stepping stone” in the boxing ring – lives in the shadow of his half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a former boxer who is known round town as “The Pride of Lowell” for a famous losing bout in which he supposedly knocked down the great Sugar Ray Leonard in the ring before being defeated.

Dicky is Mickey’s idol and his trainer – little brother heeds whatever big brother tells him to do. The boys’ mother Alice (Melissa Leo) works as Mickey’s manager, making Mickey’s career a nice tight family operation – one that has already hit the rocks and is falling apart. Dicky is a full-blown drug addict; Alice is a drinking, chain-smoking dragon-mother who is still living off the glow of Dicky’s expired fame. Mickey can’t seem to navigate his way through this quagmire of dreams, obligations, family and loyalty – that is, of course, until he meets Charlene (Amy Adams), a local barmaid who wants to help Mickey get his head on straight.

However, despite all the drama and chaos surrounding him at the end of the day Mickey Ward can only be a champion if he himself decides to step up and be one – inside and outside the ring.

The Fighter is a rare movie in terms of its quality, but it is certainly even more of a rarity within the sports drama sub-genre. Tales of athletic conquest lend themselves so easily to the dramatic side of cinema, yet David O. Russell, along with his exceptional cast, has managed to craft a sports drama that is actually more of a stripped-down dark comedy about the delusions and realities of fame, fortune and success in America. Sure, the basic framework is the same as that of Rocky Balboa’s story (with Massachusetts grit substituting for Philadelphia grit), but it is the shape and tone of the flesh laid over those bones that distinguishes The Fighter from so many other movies like it.

Christian Bale The Fighter movie image Mark Wahlberg The Fighter Review

This film is a character piece, pure and simple. While Mickey’s stumble and ultimate rise through the boxing ranks provide the narrative arch, the film is focused squarely on the players riding along for the journey – Mickey, Dicky, Alice, and Charlene. It’s clear that Russell came across this story and recognized the value of unique and vibrant characters like these (I refer to both the real-life Ward/Eklund family as much as their onscreen counterparts), and not just the generic sports story that has been so thoroughly mined by Hollywood.

What we get here are characters who are unapologetically flawed and trashy (even sweet Charlene defines herself as a screw up who partied away her chance at college) – but they’re also characters who are refreshingly raw, lively, and quite hilarious. The Fighter solicits more hoots and belly-rolling laughs than it does tears or goosebumps – and while there are a few heavy moments, those moments are never exploited for dramatic weight. Instead of working you over for the emotional payoff, Russell instead lets the audience’s empathy for these characters carry the emotion for him – no need to hit anybody over the head with meaning. Rather than trying to tug at your feelings, screenplay/story writers Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington make the smart move of injecting life into their characters and plenty of sparks into the whip-smart “colloquial” dialogue traded back and forth like daggers by the main players.

The cast (for the most part) do a phenomenal job bringing these rich and crazy characters to life – a crucial task in a film like this. Thankfully, Russell is working with some of the best actors in the business and they manage to hit the right stride.

Continue to the conclusion of our review of The Fighter

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. I knew this would get 5 stars HOORAY! I know im gonna love this…

      • The country will be out of debt when hell freezes :D

        • It feels like that now, here in DC (the cold, not the debt). :-)

  2. Wow, I will have to give this one a look!

  3. Right up there with The Town and Inception this has been among my most anticipated films of the year I’ve been following it since Bale landed in the film but until a trailer came out I had my doubts with the very unreliable 50/50 Marky Mark. However as soon as I saw the first trailer I lost my doubts it looked fantastic. Thanks for the review Kofi glad the film seems to not only live up to the hype but go beyond it.

  4. Bales weight loss nearly rivals that of his role in The Machinist from the looks of it.

      • *The

    • I swear Bale is gonna kill him self with this crap you think this compares to The Machinist check out Rescue Dawn that was worse than this. He keeps going up and down it’s crazy. He looked good in American Psycho then lost so much for the machinist then beefed up for begins like crazy then right back down for Rescue Dawn. Back to normal for TDK and now this for the fighter. It’s unhealthy. Movie looks great though.

      • Yes it is definitely unhealthy.

  5. Awesome, I’m very glad to hear it. I always want Wahlberg to do well, and I’d really like to see this. Thanks for the review.

  6. you gave the town a 4.5/5 and for good reason so i’ll prob check this one out when i get a chance.

    nice review like always :)

  7. Great review. I was sold after seeing the first trailer. I love all these actors and am glad they are doing well for themselves. YEAH!

  8. I’m might check this out.

    • correction: I

  9. Great review kofi was 50/50 whether to see this or not I missed the trailer first time around bit after reading the review and watching the trailer in defo gonna check it out.

    Bales constant weight changes are scary especially in rescue dawn his doctor must go mad everytine he gets a new script lol

  10. If Kofi gives a movie a 5, then well deserved. Great review, going to have to check this out.

    • Yeah, not like that Vic guy who tosses out 5s like Halloween candy. 8)


  11. Shocked. May have to give it a try now…

  12. The trailers looked good but 5/5 from Kofi Outlaw?! This must be a contender. :-)

  13. Great review Kofi!! Looking forward to this film..

  14. I’m still not sure if I should see it, I wasn’t a fan of any of the trailers or tv ads but the reviews are indicating that its pretty good. They also mentioned how the film is mainly worth watching for the performances of the supporting cast and it looks like Bale will win the Oscar for best supporting actor and Leo will go head to head with Bellatrix Lestrange for the supporting actress oscar. I’ll think about it.

  15. lol i never thought that i’d read best actor and Christian bale in the same sentence after watching the snore fest that was terminator salvation…

    • @ Jimmy

      Dude are you kidding? Empire of the Sun, The Machinist, The Prestige, American Psycho, Rescue Dawn, 3:10 to Yuma…

      If anything Bale is long overdue for a Best Actor nom.

      Your statement is the equivalent of saying “I can’t believe I’m hearing the words Meryl Streep and Best Actress in the same sentence after the camp-fest that was ‘Death Becomes Her’.”

      • Kofi couldn’t agree more with you. Bale is way long over due. The Machinist, Rescue Dawn and 3:10 were all very Oscar worthy films in my opinion. I hope The Fighter gets it for him. I’m tired of some of the greatest actors being ignored for their fantastic work. Some may not agree, but for me the same goes for John Cusack it’s unlikely for him now the quality of his films while still good on average has gone down considerably, but he has been in some great films with amazing performance and was passed over entirely.

        Anyway bale is long overdue.

    • Am I alone in thinking that he should have gotten a nomination for The Dark Knight?
      And Jimmy one bad movie does not count for the years of awesome performances he’s had in other movies.

  16. This already looks better than Million Dollar Baby. May have to give a view.

  17. So Kofi based on ratings I take it you think this is better than The Town ? In your opinion which do you consider to be more likely to get a good shot at the oscar? How much better do you think it is?

    • Hey Dan F,

      I think this is the most enjoyable film experience I’ve had all year – the type of movie where you leave with a big smile on your face that comes back everytime you think about it.

      I have to put it over The Town, or Toy Story 3, or Inception, all of which I thought were great. The Fighter is just a gem.

      • Thanks Kofi really looking forward to it. I always look forward to Bale in a film and usually dislike Marky Mark, but the trailers for this have been fantastic and the reviews coming it sound great.

        I really loved The Town and Inception if I enjoy The Fighter as much as I think it will be a very rare year where alot of films from the same year make it to my top shelf.

        I’m incredibly lame in some regards one being that I rank my movies instead of putting them in ABC order I put them in order of best movie to worst and I call the very best my top shelf movies in reference to Whiskey lol.

        • Expect an oscar nomination for best picture, and what ever else I mentioned earlier and a few tech awrds, for me though what I’m not sure of is whether or not Wahlberg will get a best actor nomination since, as Kofi ans other critics have pointed out, the supporting cast give better performances than the lead. What do you think Daniel?

  18. Just got back from a screening here in Chicago. This is indeed a tremendous film. The entire supporting cast (especially Bale) is phenomenal. I’ve said this here before, but when Wahlberg works with the right directors he’s a great, great actor.

    They knocked this one out of the park.

  19. Uh oh. Armond White gives the movie a fresh tomato. Things are not looking good. :-)

  20. bales is nuts and not acting at all – except for the accent – but that’s what makes him so good.

  21. I really don’t get everyone acting like it’s so rare for Kofi to give a 5 star rating. I mean he doesn’t do it all the time, and while I tend to agree with alot of his reviews (this is nothing against you Kofi) he and Vic are really the only two giving 5star reviews (thats not a bad thing) he’s done it for a few films as well. In fact in all of 2009 and 2010 Vic only has one more 5 star review than Kofi.

    If Kofi or Vic give it 5 stars you can bet it’s gonna be good and neither hand out 5 star ratings like they are cand, but it’s not like one of them gives out way more than the other. It may appear that way when looking at the history of 5 star rating, but you have to remember Vics reviews go all the way back to 2003. Both guys hand out their 5 star ratings fittingly and both put out consistently good reviews, but neither has rare 5 star ratings.

    Nothing against anyone just something that bugged me digging through my mail box for The Fighter.

  22. I just noticed Ebert ripped this one to shreds. Weird, since he’s been giving just about everything 3 stars for the past couple years.

    • netshark,

      Yeah, well… honestly, back in the day – it was always Siskel that I agreed with. 8)


      • Now that I have Screenrant’s and Ebert’s take, there’s only one more I must consider before deciding whether to watch it or not.

        Mr Cranky!


  23. So I saw this last night and recognized Dropkick Murphys “The Warrior’s Code” playing for the English boxer when he makes his way to the ring.

    I really like this band and I don’t know if many people got this so… The album that the song comes from is also called “The Warrior’s Code.” It has Micky Ward as its cover art. Dropkick Murphys wrote that song about Micky Ward but then the movie uses it as the anthem to his opponent. :)

    • I know this comment is MONTHS old… but I got wicked excited when I heard the Dropkick Murphys playing in this movie. I really appreciated them having it in the film. I mena they had to throw it in there- Micky’s right on the cover! But I think it was a nice nod to fans of the real Micky Ward and the Dropkicks. Great song, great band, awesome movie

  24. I really enjoyed this film. It gave Wahlberg and Bale a grand opportunity to show how they have developed. Both of their roles required them to challenge their physical shape and they pulled it off well. Bale was really convincing, and he certainly played the part. Not a bad way to end 2010 for all that were involved in this picture.

  25. Wow. I was expecting good, but not that good! I really loved this movie. I have to agree about the ladies stealing the show most of the time. Their scenes were great. But all of the cast hit the mark on this one!