David O. Russell’s 2010 Oscar winning film, The Fighter suffers from a cartoonish family, an uneven tone, and boxing scenes that ultimately fall flat. The film begins with Micky Ward, a struggling fighter close to the end of his boxing career. Throughout his professional life he’s been trained by his crack addicted half brother played by Christian Bale, and managed by his over protective stereotype mother, played by Melissa Leo. After losing a fight in which he’s fighting a man above his weight class that he hasn’t been preparing for, Ward, through the encouragement by his girlfriend Amy Adams, leaves his brother and mother. This new path ultimately leads to success for Ward and things appear to have finally gone his way until his brother and mother return, seeking to regain their former jobs.
Looking at the characters first, I find it interesting that the movie is about Micky Ward, yet he’s the most still character in the film. Every other character in the movie is desperately seeking your attention, yet Ward sits back and accepts a lesser role throughout the majority of the film. Most of the decisions in his life are made by other people and he’s a very blank character as he does and thinks what he’s told.
Bale really steals the film as the charismatic crack addicted Dicky. I was glad to see during the credits, the real Dickie as without this knowledge Bale could have been accused of seriously overacting and grabbing too much of the attention. Turns out that’s how the character really is, and that is a big relief. What’s unsettling to me is the heaps of praise that Melissa Leo received for her portrayal as the mother in the film. While her character might be exactly as Leo played her, the fact is, she’s nothing more than a one note villain in this piece. There is no deeper meaning behind her character, no redeeming qualities in her, she’s nasty, hateful and I winced every time her character was on screen. The entire family of Micky in fact was really dragging down the film for me. It was such a stereotypical family and the performances were almost comically villainous. The pack of sisters features the most unattractive actresses to ever grace the silver screen and again there was nothing behind any of these characters, everything was just so obvious and on the nose.
The biggest problem I had with the film is the overall tone. Like I mentioned, there seems to be points with the family that director David O. Russell wants to play up the ridiculous nature of family and this one in particular but at other times he unsuccessfully attempts to show the pain and embarrassment of drug use. There was never a time in the film that I openly cheered for Ward as I would in other more successful boxing films such as the Rocky films, Cinderella Man, and Ali. The problems boil down to the simple fact that I wished there had been more in the ring drama and less of the family and less by a long stretch. If you want to see Ward boxing, check out his you tube clips here. The Ward/Gotti fights are truly something to behold.