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"...The Pride Of Lowell…" – The Fighter on BLU RAY,
This review is from: The Fighter [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
In a televised boxing match (18 July 1978) – a young white kid from the city of Lowell in Massachusetts called Dick 'Dicky' Ekland (Christian Bale) supposedly knocked down the welterweight black champion – the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard in the 9th round. And for 15 years since Dickey has been a local hero.
Now a 1993 HBO film crew are following him and his younger half-brother Michael 'Micky' Ward (Mark Wahlberg) around the streets of Lowell – where friends, neighbours and local businesses cheer for Dicky again (who at the age of 40 is training for a comeback). So as the boys shadow spar and lark about to cheering crowds while the cameras roll – we meet the Ekland/Ward family. There’s Mum and Manager Alice (an award winning turn by Melissa Leo), chubby but dedicated father George (the great Jack McGee) and their troop of six bullish daughters (through various marriages). These women have big haircuts, big mouths and ashtrays that are always overflowing.
But tricky Dicky has a worse habit – regularly falling into a dumpster at the back of a crack cocaine den he frequents. And despite promises when his family comes to haul him out of there and back into the gym to continue training – he seems to be on a one-way ride to personal and emotional oblivion – spouting past glories that are in themselves disputed (Sugar Ray tripped and wasn’t knocked down).
One evening as his sisters, Dad and brother Dicky get drunk and swap insults in a crowded low-class bar – Micky (Mark Wahlberg) notices Charlene behind the counter – a world weary young woman who went to college and won’t take crap from the cheapskates eyeing up her short skirt and tight teeshirt (brilliant part for Amy McAdams). After a rocky start – they’re going out to French Movies neither understands - and a force of good finally enters the young boxer’s life.
But Micky’s family are hostile to the outsider woman they see as a threat to their golden boy (Manager Mom especially) – so Charlene’s opinion let alone presence is not welcome. But Micky soon sees that Charlene has a point – especially when his Mom/Brother’s 'crazy' and their need for money - pushes him into a boxing match with a man 20 pounds heavier and Micky gets pulverized. After the bruising Micky’s approached by a big-time trainer and is advised that he needs to give his obvious heart and talent a fighting chance. But this is only on the proviso that it excludes his mouthy Mum and his untrustworthy junkie brother. Charlene agrees - but Micky is conflicted by family ties that are strong/binding.
Then drugged-up Dicky gets into another bout with the cops – they break Micky’s hand on a car in a scuffle – Dicky gets jail-time – and it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Micky decides to go with that advice and employs a local trainer - excluding his troublesome family. Dickey endures crippling withdrawal inside prison - but trains hard over a year to recover. But there is further humiliation and setback as he watches the HBO documentary with his inmates in the TV common room. The program turns out not to be a celebration - but an expose of a crack addict and a has-been – a damning graphic indictment of his grotty life on the streets of Lowell.
David O. Russell’s "The Fighter" is a fabulous movie – peopled with heart, life observations and ballsy performances that amaze and deserved the praise heaped on them. But while Christian Bale and Melissa Leo are sensationally good – it’s Wahlberg’s centred determined fighter that gives the movie its beating heart. This is a man who must win – not just for himself and his family – but for all the broken bones and bloodied noses and internal wounds and all the crap the business has thrown at him down through the hard years. By the time he wins himself to the big fight in London (a shot at the title) – you’re cheering like you’re ringside and you’re life depends on it.
The BLU RAY picture is really great (defaulted to 2.35:1 Aspect ratio) – and shockingly clean given the gritty nature of the fights and the indoor house family feuds. The soundtrack adds muscle (literally) to each punch and body blow (5.1 DTS-HD Audio) and there are fantastic extras that show the extraordinary commitment of Wahlberg and Bale to their parts (Wahlberg effectively trained for two years and actually does the boxing for real).
"The Fighter" is "Raging Bull" meets "Rocky" with knobs on. Yet reputedly the real Ekland family (the two brothers are in the credits) hated their portrayal and walked out of early showings. Right there you know the truth hurts – and with that – you’re in the presence of greatness.
A total T.K.O. and how…