The Fighter (2010)
I hate to cast judgment on a film before I see it but going into this series I was not excited to see The Fighter. Sure it got good reviews and won multiple Academy Awards (though that is becoming more and more meaningless when judging quality each year) but I am not the biggest fan of boxing movies like so many others are. I am also not the hugest Mark Wahlberg fan, sure he has had his moments but I can't say he has had any role off the top of my head that truly took me back or stood out to me beyond just being pretty good. Yet still because of it's Academy Award wins and the fact that David O. Russell was directing, the film made it onto the list and I can't say I am mad that it did. Where I can pretty much confirm that it won't make it onto my final Best of the Decade list I had a fine time watching this movie and can say that I am happy I saw it.
Easily I would say the acting is the biggest highlight of this movie as overall the cast delivers pretty big. Christian Bale once again just transforms into his character (this time the drug-addicted Dicky Eklund) and gives a masterful performance as him. He is bubbling with charisma and attitude yet is also able to be empathetic and pathetic to a point. He is a man who still is gripping onto his pride, yet is fearful and understanding that it is slipping through his fingers no matter how hard he grabs. Amy Adams brings a fire we rarely see from her character as she showdowns with Melissa Leo who is playing our two main characters mother. Mark Wahlberg rounds out the cast as our main character Micky Ward and once again he is pretty good. It would be criminal not to appreciate just how much work he put into this role after preparing for it for over 3 years without even knowing if the movie was going to end up happening at points. Once again though especially when surrounded by such a strong cast he fails to breakout and be memorable, he doesn't stand out as bad but when I think back to this film I will not be thinking about his performance.
Though I also think some of that falls onto the script for this film and specifically the decision to focus on his character. Where we follow his story a lot of this film really is about his brother who goes through a much more interesting character arc if I am being honest. He is the sun that all the planets are revolving around in this movie and is the more memorable part of the film, I really don't understand why the film didn't focus on his character as our main character. In almost every major scene we cut to his character anyway, and like I said its the most memorable thing about this movie, even just days after seeing it when I think back to this movie I will think of Dicky's story, not Mickys. Due to not just the audiences but the films clear interest in Dicky's story some scenes end up feeling messy and emotionally convoluted as we have to look at Dicky as a side plot when it is the clear point of so many scenes. It feels like the script had to work him into so many scenes because it felt pressured to focus on Micky and his journey. I also think some of the set up with certain characters are really weird when we actually get to the payoff. Specifically, with Micky's mother and sisters, they set up a very dark and almost twisted relationship between them yet the payoff doesn't match that at all. It doesn't seem to have a strong idea of where it wants to go at times which is another reason so much of Micky's story doesn't connect as well as it should.
The directing and pacing in this movie is also pretty forgettable, again they are far from being bad but I can't say this movie used any really memorable techniques or styles to help make it stand out (the one exception being a scene in prison that involves the prisoners watching tv which I thought was really well handled). The boxing scenes didn't quite have the physicality needed to stand out and I felt like everything was just good. It never felt like it took a risk or pushed the envelope to be considered great. Like I said overall I am not mad that I saw this film, it has some really solid acting and emotions surrounding Dicky's story especially. I just wish the narrative was stronger and this movie had more of a focus on what story it wanted to tell so it came together better at the end.