Film: The Fighter
Cast includes: Mark Wahlberg (The Departed), Christian Bale (Batman Begins), Amy Adams (Julie & Julia), Melissa Leo (Frozen River)
Director: David O. Russell (Three Kings)
Genre: Drama/Biography/Boxing (2010) based on the life of Micky Ward
In brief: The economically depressed town of Lowell, Massachusetts, may soon be in the spotlight. HBO is doing a film about the comeback of Lowell’s most famous local, Dickie Eklund, the welterweight fighter who fought Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. It’s the early 1990s, and Dickie is now training his half-brother, Micky. Dickie tells the camera he taught Micky everything he knows. Of course, Dickie and Micky are different kinds of fighters. Dickie had finesse, but Micky has “a thunderous left punch.” At the time of the HBO filming, Micky is on a losing streak, and it’s not hard to figure out why. His trainer, Dickie, is missing-in-action or high on crack more often than not. His agent… that would be his mother… won’t do anything to get Dickie under control. When Micky meets the cute bartender, Charlene, she tells him, “I heard you were a ‘stepping stone’—the fighter they use against other fighters who are on their way up.” But that’s all going to change after Micky’s next fight.
Just before the fight, his opponent comes down with the flu, and a much heavier fighter is substituted. When Micky loses again, a trainer from Las Vegas tells Micky, “You’re a talented fighter, but you’re not getting the right fights. Come with me to Vegas.” At this point, things are coming apart in Lowell. Dickie’s at his crack house most of the time. Charlene thinks Micky should make a change. Micky’s mother and sisters hate Charlene. “She acts all fucking superior because she went to college.” That HBO project is looking suspicious. And when Micky tries to break up one of Dickie’s street brawls, things take another downward turn. Micky is “sick of being a fucking disappointment.”
Based on the true life story of Micky Ward, The Fighter is more than just another sports movie. Compared to other boxing films, this one is less about boxing and more about overcoming true life challenges. While it’s obvious that Micky’s home life is a mess, there are no easy answers. It’s not all about Micky. As the story develops, we become invested in the fates of several characters, who are all wonderfully developed and acted. That’s why this film is more than just another story about an underdog boxing champ. Producer/actor Mark Wahlberg is responsible for getting the film made against heavy odds. Several key people dropped out of the project along the way, thinking the world didn’t need another boxing film, and at several points it almost went down for the count. Happily it isn’t your typical boxing film, and it did defy the odds.
4 popped kernels
More than your average underdog boxer film, it has great character development and a story with some depth.
Primary Audience: Young adults
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Mood: Neither upbeat nor somber
Tempo: Zips right along
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking