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The Fighter
BLU-RAY disk
03.14.2011 By: Jason Adams
The Fighter order download
Director:
David O. Russell

Actors:
Mark Wahlberg
Christian Bale
Melissa Leo

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The true story of boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward, who, despite a dysfunctional family dominated by his overbearing mother/manager Alice and crack addict brother/trainer Dicky, fought his way to the top of the sport.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
As cinemagoers we’ve been exposed to no shortage of boxing flicks over the years and in the crowded inspirational sports genre it might be hard to differentiate between many of the ones that aren't outright classics like ROCKY and RAGING BULL. However, THE FIGHTER manages to help lessen that stigma with a true story that might not be entirely original, but is still vastly compelling to watch.

It's somewhat unexpected seeing director David O. Russell tackling more straightforward material in subject and tone, but he handles the transition from quirky comedy to drama well, and still brings the same sort of intense performances and unique style and vision he did to THREE KINGS and I HEART HUCKABEES. In THE FIGHTER, Russell helps blend his true-life film with a firm grasp of reality by not only painstakingly recreating many of Ward’s most famous fights but utilizing the same televised stock so that the image matches seamlessly with the original broadcasts. The boxing as portrayed is pretty much akin to watching it on HBO and thus more realistic and less stylized than the usual fights on film, but the technicality fits the nature of the movie nicely. On an emotional level, the film's family dynamic is fascinating and like THE TOWN, it feels very much like a movie ingrained in its setting and the inescapable culture tied to it.

Recent Oscar winners Christian Bale and Melissa Leo are clearly the stand outs here. Aside from his impressive weight loss (though thankfully not as extreme as THE MACHINIST), Bale goes beyond mimicry and nails the jittery mannerisms of a crack addict, not to mention the personal portrayal of the real life Eklund. The man is an intense powerhouse of an actor and his award-worthy performance here should not come as a surprise. What does come as a surprise is Leo, who, after decades of small and overall thankless roles, is given a serious chance to shine as the dedicatedly selfish matriarch of the family. As portrayed by Leo, Alice Ward is sometimes despicable in her self-serving meddling and oblivious parenting, but often times sympathetic as a woman who's done the best she could and knew how, even if that doesn't seem good enough. It's a tough line to tow, but Leo does it effortlessly and with a surprising charm. And lest we forget Mark Wahlberg, who not only spent years training to be THE FIGHTER and bringing it to the screen as a producer, but is also saddled with the unfortunate task of playing the less showy, "good guy" role of the main character. Without a hook as a crackhead or a struggling parent, it's easy to gloss over Wahlberg by comparison, but his investment in the performance is just as strong both physically and emotionally. It seems like Russell really knows how to get the best out of Wahlberg and the oft-derided actor has no problems holding his own here.

I’ve heard complaints about THE FIGHTER being too slow, and if you're expecting a film filled with constant fights and nonstop action then maybe you will be disappointed. The movie Russell delivers is as much a drama about family and addiction as it is a boxing story. We've seen plenty of fight films, dysfunctional family dramas, and movies about addiction, but combining all of those subjects as well as THE FIGHTER does, within the emotional confines of real people, helps to make it as successful as it is.
THE EXTRAS
The Blu-Ray Combo Pack is packaged with a DVD and Digital Copy of the movie.

Commentary by director David O. Russell: If you were expecting the same angry, screaming Russell you might've seen on the internet, you're going to be disappointed. The director here is calm and respectful of the material, as well as willing to share in detail about the production, real life characters and more. Plenty of stories from the lively set, as well as technical details abound.

Deleted Scenes (16:52): Over 15 new scenes, most of which are fairly short, but add in some more stuff with the sisters, Dicky's addiction and jail time, and some more of the in-movie interviews. Nothing particularly mind-blowing, but all were on par with the quality of the film itself and are available with optional commentary by Russell.

The Warrior's Code: Filming THE FIGHTER (29:56): There is plenty of stuff about Wahlberg's preparation for the role of Mickey Ward, casting, and the road to production, but a lot of this is focused on the real-life family themselves and not so much the making of the movie. Cast and crew interviews reveal a lot, but the doc also speaks with the real life family members, which is quite fascinating. Definitely worth a watch if you dug their story.

Keeping the Faith (8:32): More interviews with the Ward/Eklund family, as well as other members of the Lowell community, mainly centering on their lives dedicated to the sport and Ward's experiences in particular.

A Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
THE FIGHTER may not bring anything exceedingly new to the table as a boxing, family or drug addict drama, but it uses all three subject to great effect in order to weave a fascinating true-life tale filled with award-worthy performances and a lot of heart.

Extra Tidbit: One of the Ward sisters in the film is played by Conan O'Brien's sister, who looks exactly like him. Congratulations, now you won't be able to watch the movie the same way ever again.
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