#74. The Fighter (2010)
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Scott Silver (story by Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee
The Fighter is – in my opinion – David O. Russell’s finest moment, combining everything that made him a great voice in the independent scene in the 90’s and early 2000’s into one perfect little film. The controversial Russell directs four actors (Wahlberg, Bale, Adams, Leo) through some of the finest performances in their careers – all of them playing wildly different characters in the same film. The Fighter is about brothers Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), both of whom were professional boxers fighting out of Lowell, Massachusetts. Dicky had a brief period of fame for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard in the late 1970’s, but has since become addicted to crack cocaine. He is in the process of training his younger brother Micky for an upcoming undercard fight in the middleweight division – unfortunately for both parties, roadblocks in the form of family, friends, and mental illness will severely complicate things. The Fighter had been in production since 2003, with Wahlberg shopping the film to numerous industry professionals for years. The film ended up changing directors and stars multiple times until the team David O. Russell, Mark Wahlberg, and Christian Bale were set in stone. What followed was a truly unique film, combining aspects of a prestige boxing picture with the tone and attitude of a classic David O. Russell film. The Fighter features an incredible dramatic performance by Christian Bale, who heavily researched the real life Dicky Eklund, picked up a believable Boston accent, and even dropped a great deal of weight for the role. His turn as Dicky Eklund is both hilarious and heartbreaking, a role that most other actors would not have been able to deliver on. Bale would win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role, joining the great Melissa Leo (who won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Alice Eklund-Ward) as the film’s only award winners. The amazing Amy Adams was also nominated for her role as Charlene Fleming (Micky Ward’s girlfriend), giving a much more raw performance than we had ever seen from her before. Aside from some terrific performances – which has become a David O. Russell trademark at this point – The Fighter excels in its writing and tone. It feels true to life, which in my opinion is a must have for a film “based on a true story”, but also feels like a work of pure fiction. As the saying goes, sometimes life truly is stranger than fiction. The Fighter is a film that can be seen and appreciated by any audience, because it really does have a little bit of everything – humor, drama, action, great performances, great writing, and a very unique setting.