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Fighter, The (Blu-ray Review)

11 Mar, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 3/15/11
Box Office $92.1 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.
Stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams.

There are bound to be certain perils in trying to plot out a movie from events as they are still happening. For example, the process of turning the comeback story of boxer Micky Ward into a movie began in the early 2000s, when he was still active.

As we learn from the behind-the-scenes featurette on The Fighter Blu-ray, the shape of the film’s character arcs were linked to the third of Ward’s famous trilogy of bouts against Arturo Gatti. As far as the movie goes, it’s probably just as well that Ward lost that final fight. The Fighter has a perfectly satisfying ending as it is.

This is the story of two brothers, Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), two talented boxers from Lowell, Mass. Their mother (Melissa Leo) pushes them to make the most of their talent, but her overbearing attitude also holds them back.

Dicky’s shining moment came in 1978 by simply going the distance in a loss to Sugar Ray Leonard. Fast forward to 1993, and he’s addicted to crack and under the delusion of making a comeback while training Micky, who still is looking for his big break.

The performances are key to pulling off this real-life Rocky, which is why it’s fitting that both Bale and Leo won well-deserved Oscars for their supporting roles. Their characters are intrinsically linked as the two major forces clouding Micky’s future. If he can escape their influence, he can bring redemption to his brother, his family and his town.

These are powerful motifs, which director David O. Russell realizes so subtly and effectively it’s hard not to cheer for Ward as he rises through the ranks.

In addition to the half-hour making-of program, the Blu-ray also gives us a nice little featurette called “Keeping the Faith,” which profiles the real brothers depicted in the film. It’s said that Bale’s portrayal of Eklund was so remarkably accurate that even some of Eklund’s sisters confused the two.

Russell gives a lot of insight into his actors showcase in a solo commentary, while 16 minutes of deleted scenes are mostly disposable, except for an alternate opening in which all the primary characters are introduced more succinctly (and blatantly) than they are in the finished film.

It’s interesting that a boxing movie bearing such a simple name as The Fighter would come so soon after 2008’s pro-wrestling movie called The Wrestler. In fact, some of the themes are so similar one might think they could be companion pieces, and that’s not a coincidence. Darren Aronofsky, who directed The Wrestler, was slated to direct The Fighter at one point, and is listed as an executive producer. (Perhaps not surprisingly, his Black Swan, on disc March 29, has been labeled in some circles as The Wrestler with ballet).

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