Culture Club Film Review: The Fighter

My mother was born in raised in the Lowell, Mass area. Lowell was previously known as an industrial town, but has been taken over in the past thirty years or so by drugs, gangs, and crime. Therefore, when we go back to visit, we tend to breeze through Lowell proper.

Director David O. Russell nails Lowell culture in his new film, “The Fighter.” The film centers around Mickey, a young up and coming boxer in Lowell, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg. However, to say that “The Fighter” centers on Wahlberg’s Mickey, would be a bit of a stretch. The film truly revolves around the supporting cast of three soon-to-be Oscar-nominated actors. In the flashiest role, Christian Bale portrays Mickey’s older brother, who in his day was quite a good boxer. In fact, he was known as the pride of Lowell. His character was one of only a few fighters to ever take down Sugar Ray Leonard. However, that fight hovers over the film and its story in an inventive way. Apparently, Bale’s character Dicky, may have simply won because Leonard slipped. That mystery re-appears throughout the film, as Dicky’s legacy is tested. We also learn, early on, that sometime after the fight, Dicky took to crime and crack and floated in and out of jail. Bale plays the role with such intensity that it borders on psychopathic. He shows his acting chops, which are rarely visible in his other work, like the “Terminator” and “Batman” series. Bale is so far ahead in the Best Supporting Actor race, that it may be hard for anyone else to catch up.

Bale, Leo, Wahlberg /

The other two “most valuable” players in the film are Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. The actresses are working at the top of their game in this film, and will probably vie for the Best Supporting Actress statue. Leo has the showier role as the brother’s mother. A woman who is trying to hold onto Dicky’s legacy at all costs. Although the character is a bit cartoonish at times, Leo works the role with supreme confidence. A nominee for best actress, two years ago (“Frozen River”), Leo is probably considered the early favorite to take Best Supporting Actress, this year.

Keep your eye out for Amy Adams, though. Adams portrays Mickey’s girlfriend Charlene, who was at one point in

Amy Adams /

college, but is now a foul mouthed and weathered bartender. Adams gained a little weight and toughness for the role, which gives her an authentic look. Everything she says has sting, everything she wears is too tight, and in the end, she is the heart of the film. If I was a voting member, she would win in a walk.

The film centers on relationships, not boxing. Therefore, it appeals to a large mass of people, who might normally be turned off by boxing movies. The boxing scenes are fairly short and well done. The film is a character study that paints a fantastic picture of Lowell. It also tells the story of a man of limited means with a final shot at greatness. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up for Best Picture. Although it’s a bit predictable, it plays extremely well.

“The Fighter” is smart, enjoyable, and a feel good story that provides a nice contrast to the rest of the season’s film slate.

Grade: A-

Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.