The Fighter

Director: David O’Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg
Runtime: 115 mins
Rating: *****

One wishes that there could be something to riff on about The Fighter – some crucial flaw that undercuts the otherwise brilliant nature of the film, that could be exploited mercilessly for both comic effect and to subvert the glowing tone of other reviewers. But here’s the thing: this is easily the best sports movie of the last ten years. Possibly 20. Everything about it is just fantastic.

Of course, “sports movie” is almost a derogatory term these days, so it’s worth noting that it’s equally brilliant in other areas. Its characterisation is fantastic – Mark Wahlberg is winning praise for playing Micky Ward, the straight man, and deservedly so. Amy Adams transcends the role of a typical female love interest, becoming a character of equal worth to Christian Bale’s scenery-chewing, crack-addicted Dick Eklund, the brother of Micky.

Bale begins the film by stealing every scene he’s in, but as time goes by and the camera focuses on Wahlberg, it ends up being a balanced, brilliantly-acted exposition of the world of boxing, the nature of family and life in a working-class town.

It’s interesting to note that David O. Russell is branching out into unfamiliar territory with this film – his last, 2004’s I Heart Huckabees, was an existential indie piece that (on the surface) was entirely different in both tone and subject matter to his latest venture. Scratch away at the abrasive layer of harsh accents and bone-crunching punch-ups, and this film deals with questions equally as important, if not more so.

Backed up by a subtle but intelligent score composed by Michael Brook, and what appears to be some sound advice by executive producer Darren Aronofsky (at the time of filming, fresh off the back of The Wrestler), and this already stands to be one of the best films of the year.

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