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Reel Views: Bale stands out amidst mediocrity

Alison Gaze | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 14th, 2011

The Fighter (2010)

When Micky Ward won the welterweight title fight, it was a triumph. When director David O. Russell released the 2010 film The Fighter, based on Micky's early boxing career, it was anything but.

The story of The Fighter focuses on the early career of Massachusetts welterweight boxer Micky, although it concurrently tells the troubled story of his older half-brother and trainer Dicky and his addiction to crack.

There is a film within The Fighter, a documentary being filmed by HBO about crack addictions in America, which shifts the focus from boxing to drugs for the front half of the film.

Micky's troubles begin after losing a series of fights, including one where he is matched against a man 20 pounds and a full weight class larger than himself. A run-in with police follows, resulting in a broken hand and a lengthy recovery for Micky. Dicky is eventually jailed for a slew of offenses including assault and impersonating a police officer, allowing Micky to hire a new trainer and focus on upcoming fights. Family tensions, a new relationship and a chance at the title fight are amongst Micky's high and low moments in the film.

The cast is led by Mark Wahlberg, but what can be said for his performance? Everyone has already seen Marky Mark playing a blue-collar, hard-working, unlikely-but-ultimately-successful athlete. Wahlberg has reached the point in his career, as have so many unfortunate men before him, where he ceases to act and instead just recites lines for the camera.

Amy Adams steps out of her usual characters for her role as Charlene, Micky's girlfriend in the film. Adams plays a slightly hardened bartender who is never afraid to speak her mind or throw a few punches of her own. The equally crass and ladylike character is played well by Adams.

The true highlight amongst the endless mediocrity of the film is Christian Bale in the powerful role of Dicky. Far from his tough-guy roles in The Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation, this time Bale plays a failed boxer who became a pathetic addict willing to betray anything and anyone for his next fix. Bale dropped the pounds for this role and its effect is extraordinary; his sallow cheeks and skeletal body add to the tourde- force performance. Bale truly stands out above everything else in the film.

The cinematography, editing, sound mixing and production values of the film are generic. Nothing stands out or catches viewers' attention throughout the film.

Much hype has surrounded The Fighter but it generally doesn't live up to its expectations. Not an ounce of creativity or originality, save Bale's performance, can be found in the flick, and although it's based in reality, nothing seems genuine about it. Bland and tired, The Fighter should only be viewed to take in Bale's stunning achievement in acting.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars
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