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04 February 2011

The Fighter

directed by David O. Russell

I won’t bother you with the real life details concerning Irish Mickey Ward and what made him outstanding as a boxer, but I will say this to Mr. O. Russell: you got mad squabbles, kid! Russell crafts possibly his finest film about a Lowell, Massachusetts family of fighters who bust ass to realize their dreams. Mark Wahlberg has delivered most of his best work while in Russell’s care (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabess), and he exceeds even my expectations (which were high as hell) as Ward, the too nice for his own good bruiser with a body shot like nobody’s business. Amy Adams is fantastic as Mickey’s hardass girlfriend, Charlene, and Melissa Leo busts every ball in her path as Alice, the tough as nails matriarch of a family of scrappers. But the film belongs to Christian Bale, who plays former boxer (and Mickey’s older brother) Dicky Eklund with such wildness, such visceral desperation and such honest force that he renders all other contenders for Best Supporting Actor irrelevant. And this is a marvel in itself, because not only was Jeremy Renner a time bomb in Ben Affleck’s incredible film, The Town, but Geoffrey Rush amazed me in The King’s Speech. In all honesty, I thought the award belonged to John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone (he still gives me chills), but that was before I watched Russell’s gem. Bale’s performance is one that will linger, as will the amazing screenplay. The tricky part about the genius of the script, however, is something hard to pin down, and I truly wonder how much of what is said (especially during the tense argumentative sequences) was actually written on paper prior of filming. Like Blue Valentine, the film resists key characters delivering key lines that “resolve” the situation, instead allowing life to happen in front of your eyes, life in all of its frustrating, enraging, unfair power that will move you in ways you may not enjoy. Russell is a true filmmaker, and Wahlberg was too right to convince him to get on board. He fills each frame with a tender grit that compels you to interact with the film. I still think David Fincher deserves the Oscar for best directing (Social Network), but if Russell takes it home, I would not be disappointed. 

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