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The Independent Critic

Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
David O. Russell
Scott Silver (Screenplay), Eric Johnson (Story), Keith Dorrington (Story), Paul Tamasy (Story)
Rated R
114 Mins.
Paramount Pictures
Feature Film (with Commentary by Director David O. Russell) HD
The Warriors Code: Filming The Fighter HD
Keeping the Faith HD
Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary*) HD
DISC 2 (Combo Pack)
DVD Feature Film (English Only)
Digital Copy

 "The Fighter" Review 
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David O. Russell's The Fighter is one of the rare films in 2010 to feature virtually flawless performances across the board, dominated by Christian Bale's electrifying supporting performance as Dicky Ecklund, a washed up former boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts whose questionable knocking down of Sugar Ray Leonard was his claim to fame and whose crack habit and subsequent professional demise has made him the subject of an upcoming HBO sports documentary.

Dicky is now the trainer for his brother, Micky, an under-achieving boxer possessing remarkable potential if he can only escape from the semi-attentive wing of  his constantly wasted brother and his self-absorbed, misguided manager/mother (Melissa Leo).

The Fighter is simply a terrific film, easily one of the best films of 2010 and certain to be the recipient of multiple Oscar nominations.

While Christian Bale is likely to attract most of the awards attention for his mesmerizing turn as a larger than life wannabe, the supporting performances that surround him are equally amazing in their depth of realism, their deep sense of authenticity that emanates from every word, every gesture and every moment that they are on screen.

Mark Wahlberg has, thus far, been an afterthought in the awards arena with his decidedly understated performance taking a back seat in the limo that is Bale's performance. Yet, Wahlberg plays it perfectly here in giving us a character who has lived his entire life in the shadow of his attention-seeking and attention getting brother despite being the most consistent and dependable one in this family. Wahlberg's Micky doesn't feel necessarily like a tremendous performance, because he's surrounded by characters with ultra-dramatic storylines and more outlandish behaviors. Yet, Wahlberg manages to provide the perfect contrast to Bale, exuding both the kinship that exists between the two men and the tension that begins to dominate the relationship. It's arguable that Wahlberg is perfectly cast here, an actor with a limited emotional range playing just about the only slow and steady force in this otherwise hurricane of emotion and behavior.

Melissa Leo continues to prove herself one of Hollywood's most underrated actresses working today. Despite fairly consistent critical acclaim, Leo continues to make her mark in the indie world, year after year turning in unforgettable performances in films too often viewed only on the arthouse circuit if seen at all. Leo is simply amazing here, embodying her character as a woman who is both stunningly self-absorbed yet truly possessing of that maternal gene and a rich humanity. Leo's scenes with Bale are heartbreaking, her ability to simply look past her son's drug addiction frightening and sad and real.

Into this dysfunctional mess of family dynamics is plopped Charlene (Amy Adams), an "MTV Girl," according to Micky's numerous over-protective kick-ass sisters, a single mother determined to escape her urban reality despite also being at least modestly felled by bad choices and impulses. Some would argue that Adams is playing a mere variation of past characters and that Charlene is easily the most stereotypical of all the characters presented here. Yet, Adams takes what is arguably the most stock character and gives her a deeply authentic feeling with words, looks and comfortable body language that adds layer after layer even as we occasionally groan at the stereotypical girlfriend scenes that always seem to unfold in these fallen sports figure flicks.

Based upon a true story, The Fighter is a conventional boxing flick where boxing isn't so much a plot device as it is the world in which these people live. The film possesses your stereotypical underdog, a hilariously and frighteningly inept family system, the muse who inspires change and, of course, the winner takes all climax. With only a couple minor exceptions, most notably a detox scene played woefully over-dramatic, The Fighter is 2010's most heartfelt and gutwrenching film with beautiful and unforgettable performances from its quartet of leading performers, excellent camera work from Hoyte Van Hoytema, a resonant original score from Michael Brook and, of course, the perfect blend of humanity both stark and wondrous from director David O. Russell.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic