2010 Oscars Best Picture Nominee: The Fighter

I’m sure that once you hear about the movie The Fighter, the first thing you’ll say is “Not another boxing movie.” It’s more than that. It’s about real people with a goal. It’s about a real-life boxer who wanted to win a title and won it. It was also about other battles he had to face along the way.

The movie starts in 1995 when Micky Ward is a 30 year-old unsuccessful boxer. He’s managed by his mother Alice and trained by his brother Dicky, who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard as a rising talent. Micky has unfortunately established himself as a fighter other boxers defeat to raise their standings. Dicky has turned to a life of crack addiction.He frequently visits a crack house where his girldfriend, a prostitute, stays.  He thinks HBO is filming a documentary about his comeback and allows them to film everything, including his crack smoking.

Micky becomes disheartened with his career after losing a match against a last-minute replacement for his original opponent who fell ill. Upon retreating from the world, he meets Charlene, a bartender who was a former college athlete. They soon become a pair. However this does not go well with the family. After Micky turns down a fight offer Alice made, Alice and Micky’s seven sisters feel that Charlene demotivated him. They start calling her things like ‘MTV’.

Micky however has been given an offer for better training in Vegas, but the family has a strong mistrust from offers from outsiders. They feel people other than family, especially Vegas people, try to use fighters. Dicky tries to match the offer by claiming he can get the money. Dicky then fixes up a prostitution arrest heist to steal a car only to be foiled. As Micky sees Dicky being tackled by the police, Micky jumps in to stop the police beating, but Micky is beaten and arrested himself. At the trial, Micky is released but Dicky is sentenced to prison.

While in prison, Dicky is shocked that the HBO documentary he was filmed in was about crack addiction in Lowell. He and his family watching at home are humiliated that it documented his downfall into crack addiction and crime. Micky’s father tries to motivate him back into boxing. It works as his father assembles a new trainer and a new manager and explains to Micky that his mother and brother will no longer be involved. They place him in minor fights to regain his confidence and is soon placed in an HBO-televised title fight against a rising young talent.

Micky visits Dicky in prison and Dicky gives him advise before the match. Originally Micky dismisses it, feeling Dicky just wants to bring back his failed career. During the fight, Micky is overwhelmed but takes his brother’s advice late into the fight. It works for the better as Micky earns a surprised win. This puts him in a match against an English fighter for a World Welterweight title.

Before the match, Dicky is released from prison. He is free from drugs; motivated by the humiliation of that HBO ‘special’. He and his mother go to see Micky train. At the gym, Dicky is met with the unfriendly news that he is no longer to be involved with Micky. Charlene and his trainer leave in disgust, unhappy to see Dicky and his mother back. Micky then gets into a violent fight with Dicky at the gym, leaving him injured. Dicky goes back to the crack house but opts to say goodbye. He then talks with an angry Charlene and points out to her that she shouldn’t call him a failure when she’s a college drop out. He tells her that Micky needs them both and to work together. Everyone is brought back together in time for the fight in London. Like the HBO fight, Micky takes a lot from his opponent at the beginning, but later comes on strong to knock his opponent out. He achieves his World Welterweight title. Years later, Dicky credits Micky for his own success.

Some would immediately dismiss it as another Rocky, but it’s too premature. The fact that Micky Ward had to succeed as a boxer and overcome a lot of family problems is what makes this story unique. Also surprising how two sets of people who were completely against each other had to come together for the World title fight. That was another battle Micky had to deal with on his way to the top.

That had to be the most notable thing about this movie. ‘Irish’ Micky Ward was fighting as many battles outside the ring as he was fighting inside the ring. In addition to the family problems and rivalry between training groups, it also appeared he was fighting time taking away his athletic prime, the negative rap of his family, and the bad name his town of Lowell has received over the decades as an industrial town gone downhill.  Mark Wahlberg, a native of Massachusetts himself who also grew up in a large working class family, is both a fan and friend of Micky Ward and considers him a local hero. It’s no wonder that playing him would be an honor.

Another thing this movie reminds us is how much poor areas, in both developed countries and developing countries, value athletes. There have been many athletes from around the world in many sports who came from the poorest areas and the biggest slums to athletic greatness. They play a role to the youth, the community as a whole, and even a nation in showing that there can be a way out of the hard times. Boxing is one of those sports where many have come from rough upbringings and have gone on to athletic greatness. Some of the biggest names in boxing have grown up in the slums or in poor conditions.

Mark Wahlberg was impressive in playing Micky Ward. He also prepared very well physically to have a boxer’s body. However it’s the supporting performances that steal the show in the movie. Christian Bale was excellent as Dicky. It appeared he studied Dicky’s mannerisms and voice to a tee. He even had to lose a lot of weight to get the right look of a crack addict. Melissa Leo was also marvelous as Alice. Both actors were excellent in getting the right Boston accents and right physical mannerisms of their characters to master the roles. Amy Adams will surprise many as the sexy but feisty Charlene. The group of seven sisters also had their scene stealing minutes. My favorite was when Alice and the sisters were furiously rushing over to Charlene’s house and it looked like this ‘army of big hair’. You had to see it to love it! David O. Russell did by far his best directing job. He has directed film before like Three Kings and I Love Huckabees but nothing as remarkable as this.

So if you think that The Fighter is just another Rocky, you’re wrong. This really happened. Micky Ward and his family did go through all this. Seeing what Micky and his family went through in order to win the title makes one appreciate what he went through and why Mark Wahlberg is an admirer.