Unfortunately, The Fighter is ironically not a movie for fighting fans. They could have put the Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward trilogy and that would have been more gutwrenching than this movie. They could have just put the first Gatti/Ward fight and that would have been more gutwrenching. Heck, they could have put round 9 of the first fight and that would have been more gutwrenching. Boxing fans will talk about watching Gatti/Ward with the same face of awe, tear in eyes as when a devout Christian talks about Jesus Christ. The problem with The Fighter is you cannot get away with doing a biopic on Micky Ward and not cast someone as Arturo Gatti. Gatti/Ward is the Ali/Frazier of my generation - relegating their trilogy to a text addendum at the end of the film is a slap in the face for boxing fans.
And now that I've brought up Gatti, who is my favorite boxer of all time - may he rest in peace... Gatti looks a little like a tanned Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg is certainly too pretty to portray and looks nothing like Micky Ward. The personalities do not match up either. Ward had a penchant for punishment; the proverbial chin. It was more of a genetic, nonchalant stubborness, than the chip-on-the-shoulder determination attempted to be portrayed by Wahlberg, who I must add, is simply not very good of an actor. Wahlberg as Ward is one of his better roles, but in comparison to Christian Bale as Ward's trainer, Dickie Eklund, Wahlberg is knocked out.
A major portion of The Fighter is about Dickie's struggles with crack addiction, and how it affects Ward and his camp. While Wahlberg fails to make us believe that his troubles are fueling his fire, Bale makes it very believable that his ruined, addicted, once-glamerous existance is his raison d'etre while in the ring corner. The darkly humorous, eminently sad portrayal of crack addiction is very accurate in The Fighter, as are the rifts it creates with friends and family. The fights worth watching in The Fighter is outside the ring, featuring the tormented Dickie with those around him.
In the ring, The Fighter has to be credited for being one of the most accurate Hollywood takes on the sport of boxing. The fights are not between David and Goliath, but between men making a living, mending their wounded spirits by putting a hand on his fellow man's face - or, if you have Ward's proclivity, kidney. Ward's boxing style is shown very accurately in The Fighter, and the individual fights even have this air of recreations to the casual boxing fan. Anthony Molinari as Shea Neary, Ward's final opponent in The Figher, bloody looks like Shea Neary! But to try to pass of Ward vs. Neary as an important fight worthy of a finale is rubbish. The fight simply does not register as a great fight. The commentary they use for Ward vs. Neary in The Fighter, by the way, is actual snipets from the Ward/Gatti trilogy. The real-life commentary for the Ward vs. Neary fight is simply not nearly as exciting.
As surprisingly accurate as the boxing was in The Fighter, the timeline they try to pass off is appalling. To say Ward's win over Alfonso Sanchez (played by Miguel Espino) led directly to his fight with Neary is just making sh*t up. Micky Ward fought about seven fights over a three year span that the film just erased. One of those fights, Ward vs. Zab Judah, was infinitely more memorable than Ward/Neary or Ward/Sanchez, even though Ward lost that fight. What Hollywood (and Floyd Mayweather Jr.) cannot understand, I guess, is that in boxing there is glory to be had in losing. The Fighter tries to represent Micky Ward as the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts because he won a title from Shea Neary? Give me a break. He is the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts because he had a very prodigious 18-year professional career filled with hard-fought wins and thirteen losses. It's very rare to see a pro boxer survive 13 losses, including two to Gatti, especially since you can bet Ward will not lose a fight without getting beat to sh*t. The reason Ward is so loved among boxing fans is his never-quit attitude and the greatest moment in his career was his last fight against Gatti. That one he lost.
And of course, being Hollywood, a boxer's ups and downs in the ring have to parallel the ups and downs in his love life. Amy Adams gives a great performance as Charlene, Ward's girlfriend, but it's a little extraneous, especially since Charlene's fighting spirit overwhelm's Micky's - on account of Amy Adams being a better actor than Mark Wahlberg. Besides, women troubles seem more like the territory of Arturo Gatti, who was strangled by his wife, or someone hired by his wife, and did not commit suicide (in case you didn't know).
Throughout The Fighter, I was waiting for the introduction of a character that never came. While Christian Bale's performance alone will make this movie worth watching, it may be alone in being the only thing worth watching. Mark Wahlberg, "the fighter," is painfully outacted by all around him, making it feel like his girl, Charlene, could beat him into throwing in the towel. Micky Ward deserves more than Wahlberg. Micky Ward deserves you copy and pasting this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZP-IfSZxl0, to watch (or re-watch) the greatest round in boxing, ever. Boom. Academy Award for Best Display of Heart.
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