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Face-Off: The Wrestler vs. The Fighter

05.24.2012by: 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?
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Tags: Face-Off

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