Based on the real-life tale of Lowell boxing legend Micky Ward, David O. Russell's 'The Fighter' is an oddly captivating movie. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and Melissa Leo and Christian Bale took home the Supporting Actor/Actress prizes. The awards given to this film only serve to underscore how much magnificent and energetic the acting truly is throughout.
Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) always looked up to his older brother. Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale), created a name for himself in the boxing world after he (in)famously knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard in a fight. Dicky has fed off that moment his entire life. His fifteen minutes of fame right there. Micky is a talented boxer and he takes his training tips from Dicky, but though Dicky is a good trainer, he's a real-life loser. He's addicted to crack, spends all of his time smoking with his friends, and is late for everything that's important to his brother. The family knows what Dicky is up to, but they look up to him so much that they turn a blind eye. They even fool themselves into thinking that the camera crew who is following Dicky around is there to film an HBO documentary about his boxing comeback. They're really there filming an expose about crack addiction and what it does to people. Does Dicky listen? No. He's living in his own little dream world and that's good enough for him.
Like any underdog boxing movie you know right where the end game is going. Micky has got to rise up from the dregs of the boxing world to finally have his title shot. Just remember, the whole story of his boxing career is ancillary when contrasted to his struggles with his tight-knit family.
Micky's family gives a brand new meaning to dysfunctional. Here's a group of people that just completely floored me. His mother (Melissa Leo) wants to control every aspect of her son's life even though he's in his 30s. She sets up his fights, manages his money, and tells him what to do and when to do it. She has the "mom glare" down pat. All she has to do is sit there, pout her lips, and stare at Micky until he finally gives in. She's one of the most threatening female characters I've seen in quite some time. Micky's band of sisters follow their mother around like a pack of shrieking harpies. Having a family like that would cause a lesser man to give up and end it already.
Micky finally meets Charlene, played by Amy Adams, who sometimes eclipses Melissa Leo when they share scenes. Adams could have won that Oscar and I'd have been just as pleased. She becomes Micky's rock and a way for him to deal with the increasingly bizarre family dynamics around him. All he wants to do is box, everyone else wants to ride his coattails, except for Charlene. She's a strong woman who doesn't put up with the insanity of Micky's family. She's a welcome respite of reason.
At its heart, this is the story of a colorful Lowell family that insists on running one member's life. It just happens that Micky is a boxer, but we can't help but think that if he was, say, the best ice cream salesman in Beantown, they'd still be trying to run his business for him. Bale is simply amazing here, and when they show a short clip of the real Dicky Ecklund over the credits you'll realize in a second that Bale nailed that part. 'The Fighter' was one of the best movies of last year, mainly because of its stellar performances. The boxing story is something we've seen time and time again, but believe me when I tell you, you've never seen a family like this.
'The Fighter's 1080p AVC-encoded picture is one great looking Blu-ray presentation. 'The Fighter' does feature a few different filming styles, so detail wavers every now and then. Specifically, during the fight sequences where the film is made to look more like a TV broadcast than a movie. The fight scenes have that flat, dimensionless feel that older TV broadcasts had. It's meant to look like that though, so no harm no foul.
Facial details, clothing, textures, even the sweat that drips from Mark Wahlberg's brow, all are pristinely rendered. A few textures I noticed that really came to life here are the shag carpet in Alice's home and the weathered faces of a few of Micky's sisters. A fine film sheen gives everything a very cinematic look. Darker scenes feature well balanced blacks, while daytime scenes bristle with the muted colors of Micky's hometown of Lowell. Artifacts stay away, although I did notice a few negligible instances of banding. Other than that, this is a great looking release, which is to be expected for a film just coming from theaters.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track accompanying 'The Fighter', like a seasoned professional boxer, pummels you into submission with its stunning sonic punches. Yes, sometimes Mark Wahlberg's mumbled Boston accent makes the lines hard to hear, but that's the nature of the characters and their way of speaking and not necessarily a problem with the track.
The fight scenes, however, feature blaring noise from the rowdy crowds that is piped heavily through the rear speakers, making it feel like you're sitting ringside. I was immediately impressed with the roar of the crowd and how it filled the entire room. One of the best large crowd reproductions I've heard thus far on Blu-ray. LFE is in a constant state of thump as it bumps along to the movie's rocking soundtrack. Low-end frequency also plays a part thud every time a boxer lands a punch.
I loved the way 'The Fighter's sound design and lossless presentation drew me into the movie. Fans will be very pleased.
Even though the movie is called 'The Fighter' and is about a boxer, I would submit that the film's title more aptly describes the way Micky had to struggle with his leeching, controlling mother and a band of sisters scorned. Their family dynamic is something else, and to watch it play out on screen was one of 2010s brightest cinematic high points. There are a bevy of strong performances here, led by Bale and followed closely by Adams and Leo. The audio is tremendous, and the video follows suit. There's a good helping of extras here too. This one comes highly recommended.