The Fighter
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir David O Russell
scr Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
prd Dorothy Aufiero, David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd Lieberman, Paul Tamasy, Mark Wahlberg
with Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Dendrie Taylor, Jenna Lamia, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Chanty Sok, Sean Patrick Doherty, Frank Renzulli
release US 10.Dec.10, UK 4.Feb.11
10/US Paramount 1h55
The Fighter
Stay focussed: Wahlberg and Bale

adams leo russell
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Fighter Director Russell significantly ups his game with this visceral drama based on the true story of two boxing brothers, one on his way up and one going down fast. But it's the emotional resonance of the tale that makes it so gripping.

In small-town 1993 Massachusetts, Dickie (Bale) is a crack addict who lives in his own glorious past as a boxer who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. But his erratic life is jeopardising the growing career of his half-brother Micky (Wahlberg), who he's training and managing with their tough-as-nails mother (Leo). Micky knows that in order to further his career, he'll need to make a difficult break from his messy family. Then he meets Charlene (Adams), a barmaid who encourages him to go for it. And of course they see her as the villain.

True stories don't come much more rousing than this one, and Russell thankfully avoids sentiment from start to finish, centring instead on the gritty interaction between people who all feel that they have a vested interest in Micky's career. These are all jagged, tough, salt-of-the-earth characters, and the film's real point of engagement is in watching Micky struggle with how to take control of his own future.

Wahlberg is superb in the role, combining his tough-guy physicality with an inner soulfulness that lets us travel with him on this journey. While the romantic element is somewhat underplayed, Adams provides rock-solid support as a woman who, like Dickie, has seen her dreams fall apart. Meanwhile, Bale and Leo are kinetic and more than a bit scary as they disappear into the film's showiest roles.

Executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, this film continually echoes The Wrestler in both themes and shooting styles. It also packs just as strong a punch, balancing the family commotion with intense internal conflicts plus thrillingly well-staged boxing scenes that manage to get us cheering. With his clever mix of documentary elements, TV-style bout coverage and skilfully edgy editing, Russell has crafted one of the best boxing movies in decades. And a powerfully moving drama about pursuing your dream.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 14.Nov.10

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