THE FIGHTER is a fairly formulaic sports film. About as formulaic as you can get. And there’s nothing really wrong with that aspect of it. It does contain all the proper ingredients to engage and uplift and inspire and so on. It’s expertly executed all around, with superb direction from David O. Russell, and great performances from Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams.
It’s crippling weakness, at least for me, lies in terrible characters. Weak characters. It’s hard to give a crap about these kind of characters. I often find myself having trouble when it comes to films trying to portray white trash as some kind of “aw shucks, they just have so much heart” type of people. You have an unrepentant drug addict and a manipulative family that’s more invested in sticking together in one dysfunctional group that doing anything to improve the situation.
And in the middle of it all you have Micky, who is supposed to be the focus of the story, basically floating around like a piece of driftwood in choppy water. What’s his motivation? Eh, not important, whatever fits the scene. By the time he has a mild outburst (especially compared to everyone else) and asks “am I being selfish?” No, you’re not, the movie is supposed to be about you and your family, not your family and you. The character is a damp rag. There’s nothing compelling about him to pull us along other than that general sports movie feel of “go team! Let’s win!”
And Mark Wahlberg continues his long, long string of ho-hum performances with this. I have to wonder why he fought for so long to get this movie made. The story is nice and all, but the character has no meat. What, specifically, did he bring to it? Wahlberg didn’t do a bad job, to be fair, but you could’ve slotted anyone in there and the film would have been unchanged.
Christian Bale completely disappears into the role, which is no surprise, and owns the first three quarters of the movie. Once his character redeems himself near the end he loses anything that made him interesting. But a top performance of the year, nonetheless. Melissa Leo, as well, does an amazing job as the manipulative mother. Amy Adams is always great, and it’s nice to see her playing a character with some amount of edge this time.
So is it good? Yeah, a little. Is it bad? Yeah, a little. Is it worth seeing? No, probably not. Unless you really like sports and/or boxing films. Which is fine, they’re just rarely my cup of tea. But there have been better, and there will be more, and they’ll inevitably be the same story yet again.