Press Play: The Fighter Packs a Dramatic Punch

Press Play: The Fighter Packs a Dramatic Punch

Mar 16, 2011

This week's must-see DVD/BD, and why we're lovin' it.

What? The Fighter

Who? Directed by David O. Russell and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams

Why? Mark Wahlberg hasn't demonstrated much of a range as an actor since giving up underwear modeling and rapping years ago, but when a script calls for a ripped blue-collar guy with a thick Boston accent, he is Hollywood's go-to guy. Here he stars as real-life boxing legend Micky Ward in the biographical sports drama The Fighter, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Christian Bale took home a statue for his role as Micky's older brother, Dicky Ecklund, and unlike his infamous rant during the filming of Terminator Salvation, didn't swear. Meanwhile Best Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo, who plays Dicky and Micky's mother and who campaigned heavily for her trophy by placing "vote for me" ads in the trades, dropped an F bomb when accepting her Oscar.

 Most of the fighting in The Fighter is done with outside the ring and with words, which often sting more than a strong right hook. Dicky got his 15 minutes of fame after knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard in a fight and, ever since then, Micky has looked up to his older brother. Dicky, however, struggles with a secret crack addiction and is inadvertently holding his brother back from going to the top. Meanwhile, mom (Leo) is a heavily-accented control freak who tries to steer every aspect of Micky's professional and personal life, including his new relationship with a college-educated bartender, Charlene (Amy Adams). After Dicky is imprisoned and an HBO documentary is aired that exposes his crack addiction to the world, he begins training in jail and gives his brother valuable advice on how to beat a key opponent. By the time Dicky is released, Micky has a shot at the welterweight title. Can the family put aside their differences and work together to help Micky during the most important fight of his life?

You've seen bits of The Fighter in movies like Rocky and Raging Bull, but the movie is really a dysfunctional family drama about people trying to control their loved ones' lives more than a typical sports film. Adams is sometimes the only grounding presence on-screen as Micky's cartoonish big-haired sisters squawk and squabble, mom shoots her mouth off, and Bale—who dropped a lot of weight like he did for The Machinist—brings the crazy and turns it into Oscar gold. Everyone comes out fighting for awards, including Wahlberg as the man caught in the middle, but guys in the mood for hardcore boxing action will want to look elsewhere. Maybe if the sequel—which Wahlberg is already proposing—happens, we'll see more action inside the ring, too.

What Else?: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a commentary track by Russell, "The Warriors' Code: Filming The Fighter," "Keeping the Faith" and deleted scenes.

Categories: Disc-y Business
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