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“The Fighter” (2010) Movie Review

In the pantheon of Boxing Movies, “The Fighter” holds its own in the ring. There are monolithic footsteps to follow when it comes to films about boxing, especially with true stories. David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo in the true story of brothers Dicky Eklund and Micky Ward.

Martin Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” is continually listed in top ten lists of greatest films of all time. Not to mention winning two Academy Awards amongst eight nominations. There is also Paul Newman in the Oscar winning true story “Somebody Up There Likes Me” about Rocky Graziano, Ron Howard’s Oscar nominated film “Cinderella Man” about James Braddock and Michael Mann’s Oscar nominated biopic “Ali.”

The list of fictional boxing movies is long and just as intimidating: King Vidor’s 1931 “The Champ” was nominated for Best Picture; Stallone’s “Rocky” won it, as did Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby.” Boxing films like “Champion”, “Fat City” and “The Great White Hope” all received Academy Award nominations. Will “The Fighter” join this battalion of knock-outs at the Oscars in 2011? The odds are good.

“The Fighter” is already up for Best Drama, Best Actor (Wahlberg), Best Supporting Actor (Bale), Best Supporting Actress (Leo and Adams) and Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards. David O. Russell also grabbed a Best Director nomination at the Directors Guild of America Awards. The screenwriters are nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay. The Screen Actors Guild also has some nominations for an ensemble cast that completely inhabits this family from Lowell, MA. Production Designer Judy Becker is also nominated for the Art Directors Guild Award in Contemporary Film.

“The Fighter” has all the right moves to go the distance at the Oscars in 2011. Christian Bale’s performance as Dicky Eklund, The Pride of Lowell is a surefire nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The transformative actor slimmed off his Batman beef-up and joined Mark Wahlberg in full on training. Not only the authentic work-outs Dicky and Micky shared with them, but putting some couch time in watching fights together.

Sadly the cinematography in “The Fighter” won’t likely receive any nominations. This may not seem like a big surprise, but the authenticity captured in the fight sequences is genus. The production actually hired the HBO director and camera crew who actually shot Micky Ward’s title bout ten years ago to film the reenacted fights. Aside from an ensemble performance that equally inspires disgust and determination, the fight cinematography is indisputably original. It’s not groundbreaking cinematography, but the HBO fight sequences behold a character all its own that germinates an already genuine filmmaking process.

Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are reaping accolades as the women in Micky Ward’s life. The war waged between Ward’s Mother (Leo) and her entourage of seven daughters against Ward’s girlfriend (Adams) is unforgettable in “The Fighter.” The film marks the third collaboration between director David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg after “Three Kings” and “I Heart Huckabees.” This turning point will undoubtedly stoke their collaborative fire.

Though, in the ring with Oscar the Academy loves the self-destructive nature of a fighter, which is why Christian Bale’s performance takes the cake. One can’t help but wonder what a head trip it was for Dicky Eklund to watch himself – watching himself, portrayed by Bale viewing the HBO special about Crack addiction while incarcerated.

The Academy also loves women who love fighters with several nominations going to actresses in boxing films. For instance Susan Tyrrell in “Fat City”, Jane Alexander in “The Great White Hope”, Eva Marie Saint in “On the Waterfront”, Talia Shire in “Rocky”, and Cathy Moriarty in “Raging Bull.” Something worth noting with both Melissa Leo and Amy Adams having previous nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

In end “The Fighter” comes together as an addition to the best boxing films of all time.