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Face-Off: The Wrestler vs. The Fighter

May. 24, 2012by: Paul Huffman
Last weeks Face Off between Batman '89 and Batman Begins was a close race. With Begins ultimately taking the victory.

This week we've chosen two films that in my opinion have already become classics. Two highly acclaimed (by critics and the public alike) sports dramas with plenty of heart. I'm talking about 2008's The Wrestler and 2010's The Fighter. With films like this the strength has to come from its story and its characters, and both of these films delivered those aspects in spades. But which affected you more? Which packed the biggest emotional punch? Lets get to my two cents.
Story
The Wrestler focuses on the later life of aging professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson. His glory years are far behind him and he remains in the game by doing nickel and dime shows in small venues. When he suffers of a heart attack after a match and is advised against stepping inside a ring ever again, he attempts to connect with a stripper with a heart of gold and his estranged daughter.

NOTE: The character of Randy The Ram shares similarities with real life professional wrestlers Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Terry Funk.
The Fighter chronicles the life and fighting career of Irish boxer Micky Ward. Micky trains for an upcoming fight with a bunch of support behind him including his brother Dicky Eklund and his new love interest Charlene. But dealing with his dysfunctional family proves to be more of a workout then his damn training.
Cast
This film has become famous for finalizing the comeback Mickey Rourke started with Sin City. He immersed himself in a role that mirrored his own life and that added to how glorious this movie turned out being, I get a whole different picture if Nicolas Cage would have stuck around for this bad boy, and that's coming from a fan of the man. Mickey was complimented with great co-stars in the beautiful and talented Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Not to mention the cameos by real life wrestlers who added heaps of realism to the film.
Mark Wahlberg rocked it with what he was given in this movie, but I think its beyond common sense to say that the show stealer for this film was Christian Bale. His dedication in losing weight for the character and his performance as a whole, friggin remarkable. Full credit can't go to him however as Melissa Leo gave us an amazing performance as the overly supportive mother and the sisters rocked it as well. Amy Adams brought her A game as the supportive, sexy, and sassy when she needed to be love interest.
In Ring Scenes
Man the action in this movie was brutal. It did one thing perfectly, it showed the audience that while the outcomes of these matches are predetermined and everything is scripted, the last word that should be used when it comes to what these guys do is 'fake'. The bruises and broken down bodies are real. As a wrestling fan I appreciated the brutality being shown.
The boxing scenes in this film didn't exactly hit the greatness of Rocky or Raging Bull, but they were by no means sh*t. Just not that memorable, and if pushed I would have to say the boxing scenes were never what were gonna make this film so memorable anyway. Much more care was shown to the family dynamics than the fight choreography.
Accolades
In total, The Wrestler walked away with 22 awards. When it came to Academy Awards season its a pretty popular opinion that Mickey Rourke was robbed of the Best Actor award, which went to Sean Penn for Milk. Tomei was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress. However the film swept plenty of other awards outside of the Oscars and deservedly so.
The Fighter has a total of 10 awards under its belt. At the Oscars it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor & Actress, Best Original Screenplay (where was the love for Wrestler in that category) and Best Film Editing. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won their respective awards in this and plenty other awards ceremonies. Bravo.
Emotional Punch
Randy "The Ram" is such a likeable human being that your crushed when you see what his life has turned out to be. His genuine heartbreak over what he's done to his daughter is evident and we hope the relationship mends, and we all saw the results. The man sees everything he's ever known is slipping away and he's finally looking elsewhere for fulfillment. Imagine living life and one day looking around and seeing nobody there. Talk about a one-two to the damn gut.
I related to The Fighter in ways I didn't expect I was going to. The family we get to know in this film is dysfunctional as all hell, much like my own. But when push comes to shove their love and support for each other is undeniable, much like my own. Seeing what an all around loveable dude like Dicky Eklund has been reduced to was also damn near tear inducing as well. The scene where Dicky watches his brother from a television in jail. Well played Bale, well played.
The Wrestler
Both these films had so much soul. Both have their uplifting moments, both have more moments that make you want to shoot yourself in the foot (in a good-ish way). But I was indeed more entranced with The Wrestler. The world of Pro Wrestling is something I've followed for a long time, and Rourke's performance is something for the ages. What did you think?

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which movie are you anticipating the most?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!
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3:59PM on 05/25/2012

The Wrestler

Mark Wahlberg can be good but he has very little range. While Bale and Leo became completely different characters, Wahlberg was still Wahlberg and this is a part that needed an actor, not a star.

Mickey Rourke doesn't have the range he used to have before all the botox but he does look like a wrestler and I fully believed his performance.
Mark Wahlberg can be good but he has very little range. While Bale and Leo became completely different characters, Wahlberg was still Wahlberg and this is a part that needed an actor, not a star.

Mickey Rourke doesn't have the range he used to have before all the botox but he does look like a wrestler and I fully believed his performance.
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3:55AM on 05/25/2012
I would have to go with the Fighter although barely. The Wrestler is much slower and heart wrenching but the Fighter delivers a more entertaining and inspiring film. Obviously the Wrestler has no intention of doing that. And while I loved the Wrestler overall I really don't like Aronofsky's tendency to have cop out endings which ruins my opinion on the Wrestler somewhat since I was left disappointed by how the movie ended.
I would have to go with the Fighter although barely. The Wrestler is much slower and heart wrenching but the Fighter delivers a more entertaining and inspiring film. Obviously the Wrestler has no intention of doing that. And while I loved the Wrestler overall I really don't like Aronofsky's tendency to have cop out endings which ruins my opinion on the Wrestler somewhat since I was left disappointed by how the movie ended.
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6:37PM on 05/24/2012

The Fighter

I loved the Wrestler, and not only was Rourke robbed of an oscar but Springsteen as well for his great song. I had low expectations for the fighter after so many boxing movies, but it was fresh, exciting, emotional and had great performances. For this, I give the Fighter my vote.
I loved the Wrestler, and not only was Rourke robbed of an oscar but Springsteen as well for his great song. I had low expectations for the fighter after so many boxing movies, but it was fresh, exciting, emotional and had great performances. For this, I give the Fighter my vote.
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5:43PM on 05/24/2012

Uhhh No Jeff Knite

The Wrestler is indeed the better work of art IF I have to compare the two. The story, the editing, cinematography, the raw yet subtle emotion in every single moment. Its a one-time watch precisely because it cuts so deep and leaves such an impression.

Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan are brilliant dramas as well. But The Great Escape is the movie I want to watch over and over. Indeed, if I did watch Schindler's List or The Wrestler as often as I watch The Fighter or The Great
The Wrestler is indeed the better work of art IF I have to compare the two. The story, the editing, cinematography, the raw yet subtle emotion in every single moment. Its a one-time watch precisely because it cuts so deep and leaves such an impression.

Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan are brilliant dramas as well. But The Great Escape is the movie I want to watch over and over. Indeed, if I did watch Schindler's List or The Wrestler as often as I watch The Fighter or The Great Escape...I'd be an emotional mess.
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5:18PM on 05/24/2012

The Fighter

The Wrestler, while a good film, is a one time watch. The Fighter is just an overall better film. And that's the definition of a great film in the simplest of explanations.. So when TarantinoDork saids "Wrestler might be the better 'film' but Fighter is the movie I happily watch over and over". He, as many of you are, trying to sound cool, keep face, and still get your opinion out. But it only makes you look like a bandwagon Hypocrite. It's like saying "I love chocolate ice cream, but I like to
The Wrestler, while a good film, is a one time watch. The Fighter is just an overall better film. And that's the definition of a great film in the simplest of explanations.. So when TarantinoDork saids "Wrestler might be the better 'film' but Fighter is the movie I happily watch over and over". He, as many of you are, trying to sound cool, keep face, and still get your opinion out. But it only makes you look like a bandwagon Hypocrite. It's like saying "I love chocolate ice cream, but I like to eat vanilla more often".
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5:04PM on 05/24/2012

Two wildly different films

The Wrestler is character drama. A completely gut-wrenching and unexpected modern Greek tragedy as only Aronofsky can provide.

The Fighter, however, is an ensemble feel-good biopic. Its funny, inspirational, packed with great performances, dialog, and charm. A (good) Disney sports movie with F-bombs, crackheads, and Amy Adams in a see-through bra.

Wrestler might be the better 'film' but Fighter is the movie I happily watch over and over.
The Wrestler is character drama. A completely gut-wrenching and unexpected modern Greek tragedy as only Aronofsky can provide.

The Fighter, however, is an ensemble feel-good biopic. Its funny, inspirational, packed with great performances, dialog, and charm. A (good) Disney sports movie with F-bombs, crackheads, and Amy Adams in a see-through bra.

Wrestler might be the better 'film' but Fighter is the movie I happily watch over and over.
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3:21PM on 05/24/2012

Darren Aronofsky

One piece of trivia that might be of interest to this face-off is that Darren Aronofsky was originally attached to both The Wrestler and The Fighter, but dropped out and was replaced by David O. Russell. The reason why this interests me, and why I was surprised it wasn't even mentioned, is it puts the battle in a different perspective: how would these films have compared if Aronofsky directed both of them? Of course, David O. Russell is a more than competent replacement, so the film still has
One piece of trivia that might be of interest to this face-off is that Darren Aronofsky was originally attached to both The Wrestler and The Fighter, but dropped out and was replaced by David O. Russell. The reason why this interests me, and why I was surprised it wasn't even mentioned, is it puts the battle in a different perspective: how would these films have compared if Aronofsky directed both of them? Of course, David O. Russell is a more than competent replacement, so the film still has many merits under his direction. I just thought this was an interesting tie-in that could have been acknowledged.

Plus, Darren Aronofsky is listed as the executive producer for The Fighter, so no matter who wins this battle, Aronofsky deserves a lot of credit for his role in creating these films.
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2:51PM on 05/24/2012

Warrior

Better then both films and received barely any accolades. But between these two, I'd definitely choose Aronofsky's The Wrestler. That ending is a wallop.
Better then both films and received barely any accolades. But between these two, I'd definitely choose Aronofsky's The Wrestler. That ending is a wallop.
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5:24PM on 05/24/2012
Yeah, I kind of feel between all 3 of the films it's too each his own kind of deal. The Wrestler and Warrior resonate with me much more then The Fighter because of personal reasons. I think that elevated both films a lot more for me. The Wrestler does leave you more to think about afterwards then any of the other films. I'll definitely give it that! About to have a marathon with these films in a few minutes here :)
Yeah, I kind of feel between all 3 of the films it's too each his own kind of deal. The Wrestler and Warrior resonate with me much more then The Fighter because of personal reasons. I think that elevated both films a lot more for me. The Wrestler does leave you more to think about afterwards then any of the other films. I'll definitely give it that! About to have a marathon with these films in a few minutes here :)
3:23PM on 05/24/2012
i disagree. i loved "warrior" but thought "the wrestler" was a lot better overall. i'd rank it as one of the best films of its decade, whereas "warrior" is simply a very good film that is nonetheless more conventional and predictable than aronofsky's film. even from a directorial standpoint it is less daring. the performances make the film - hardy in particular is brilliant - but i'd go for the wrestler all the way. "the fighter" was also very good and bale was excellent but once again i'd give
i disagree. i loved "warrior" but thought "the wrestler" was a lot better overall. i'd rank it as one of the best films of its decade, whereas "warrior" is simply a very good film that is nonetheless more conventional and predictable than aronofsky's film. even from a directorial standpoint it is less daring. the performances make the film - hardy in particular is brilliant - but i'd go for the wrestler all the way. "the fighter" was also very good and bale was excellent but once again i'd give the edge to "wrestler" - such a wonderful movie.
12:28PM on 05/24/2012
this was a no brainer The Wrestler is definitely the better film. I just watched The Fighter the other night and although it was a good film I wasnt all to impressed, if anything it was Christian Bales performance that was brilliant.
this was a no brainer The Wrestler is definitely the better film. I just watched The Fighter the other night and although it was a good film I wasnt all to impressed, if anything it was Christian Bales performance that was brilliant.
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11:51AM on 05/24/2012
I don't agree with the winner of this at all. The Wrestler was a great film, but The Fighter was alot better. Christian Bale ALONE made The Fighter better than The Wrestler. One of the most deserved and accomplished Oscar wins of all time.

The Fighter just had a better story, characters, cast, director, and was just overall a better film. It packed more of a emotional punch for me (pun intended).
I don't agree with the winner of this at all. The Wrestler was a great film, but The Fighter was alot better. Christian Bale ALONE made The Fighter better than The Wrestler. One of the most deserved and accomplished Oscar wins of all time.

The Fighter just had a better story, characters, cast, director, and was just overall a better film. It packed more of a emotional punch for me (pun intended).
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+3
11:32AM on 05/24/2012

Very interesting Face-Off

Both movies are great for what they are. Ultimately I think I'd have to side with The Fighter though because A) Christian Bale out-acts pretty much anyone else from both movies (glad he won the Oscar, very deserved), and B) the story in The Fighter has a tad more energy and life to it. Not saying The Wrestler is bad, just that is does slog at some points.
Both movies are great for what they are. Ultimately I think I'd have to side with The Fighter though because A) Christian Bale out-acts pretty much anyone else from both movies (glad he won the Oscar, very deserved), and B) the story in The Fighter has a tad more energy and life to it. Not saying The Wrestler is bad, just that is does slog at some points.
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10:30AM on 05/24/2012

The Wrestler

Being a life long wrestling fan and actually having had a friend years ago who wrestled on the small independent scene I had the opportunity to go backstage and even workout one time with him and some other of his fellow wrestlers. That and just having followed the industry along with listening to a local radio personality who was a former WCW announcer back in the day he would talk about the wrestling lifestyle along with having guys he knew come on his show all the time. The Wrestler just
Being a life long wrestling fan and actually having had a friend years ago who wrestled on the small independent scene I had the opportunity to go backstage and even workout one time with him and some other of his fellow wrestlers. That and just having followed the industry along with listening to a local radio personality who was a former WCW announcer back in the day he would talk about the wrestling lifestyle along with having guys he knew come on his show all the time. The Wrestler just strikes a cord in me, but The Fighter is awesome in it's own right too. Boxing just never appealed as much, I still watch it, but...

Future recommended face-off
1. X-men vs. X-men: First Class (if didn't do it already)
2. Point Break vs. The Fast and The Furious (again, may have already been done)...I'll have to think of some others.
1. Any comparable sci-fi's too...
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+0
9:29AM on 05/24/2012
Had to post this. How could I not?

[link]
Had to post this. How could I not?

[link]
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7:53AM on 05/24/2012

Hell yes.

The Wrestler is a masterpiece. Aronofsky's best film - and that's saying a lot. It is infinitely watchable, and is one of my favorite films as well.
The Wrestler is a masterpiece. Aronofsky's best film - and that's saying a lot. It is infinitely watchable, and is one of my favorite films as well.
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+7
3:56AM on 05/24/2012

The Wrestler

The Wrestler is one of my 10 favorite movies and it's directed by one of my three favorite directors. It's genuinely emotionally wrenching. The Fighter is a solid movie with a great cast, but it didn't effect me the way The Wrestler does every single time.
The Wrestler is one of my 10 favorite movies and it's directed by one of my three favorite directors. It's genuinely emotionally wrenching. The Fighter is a solid movie with a great cast, but it didn't effect me the way The Wrestler does every single time.
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7:55AM on 05/24/2012
It's in my top 10 too. I don't even like wrestling or MMA really at all. Just an all around excellent movie.
It's in my top 10 too. I don't even like wrestling or MMA really at all. Just an all around excellent movie.
+10
3:39AM on 05/24/2012

BigGeee

Now bring on The Wrestler vs. Warrior !!! I'd be interested to see the schmoes opinion.
Now bring on The Wrestler vs. Warrior !!! I'd be interested to see the schmoes opinion.
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10:31AM on 05/24/2012
Wow! Good one! Or stir up a bit of controversey. Rocky vs. Warrior even...
Wow! Good one! Or stir up a bit of controversey. Rocky vs. Warrior even...
+10
2:43AM on 05/24/2012
I enjoyed both movies but I'd have to go with The Wrestler as my winner. Rourke and Tomei were both great in their roles
I enjoyed both movies but I'd have to go with The Wrestler as my winner. Rourke and Tomei were both great in their roles
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+19
2:29AM on 05/24/2012

Robbed

Yep, Mickey was robbed at the Academy awards.
Yep, Mickey was robbed at the Academy awards.
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