David O Russell is a director who certainly has had an interesting career. Although his early films met with critical approval they never really bothered the Box Office or the Oscars. That all changed in 2010 when he started to be a big feature of the Oscar calendar, earning three Best Director nominations over four years. The films themselves all had different subject matter but were tied together by a number of fine performances from a set of actors that Russell was seemingly able to get the best from.
One actor who I feel Russell nurtured to an extent was Mark Wahlberg who appeared in his 1999 film Three Kings and later in the bizarre I Heart Huckabees. Russell and Wahlberg’s third collaboration saw the director’s first success at The Oscars with Wahlberg giving a tremendous performance as Micky Ward in The Fighter. Following in the footsteps of Raging Bull, The Fighter is a film about a boxer with a troubled family life. But unlike other films it’s not the boxer himself who’s troubled but rather his brother in this case drug addicted former star Dicky Ecklund. Alongside his mother Alice, Dicky feels he knows what’s best for Micky however his trust in his family looks to be his downfall. Micky is to extent saved by his new love Charlene who helps him to believe in himself and helps him assemble a new management team. I personally liked this take on the sports movie where in the boxer himself lacks confidence partly due to it being emotionally knocked out of him by certain family members. As the film progresses, The Fighter does lapse into familiar territory as we are treated to a montage of Micky’s various winning fights. The film also ends rather predictably with Micky competing in a championship match with all of his family members by his side. However I don’t think The Fighter ever slips into Rocky territory with Russell maintaining a sense of realism due to the participation of several real life characters playing themselves in the film. I personally liked the final credits sequence in which the real Micky and Dicky voiced their pleasure about seeing their life story captured on film but were seemingly glad the experience was over.
In my opinion, Wahlberg was the star here as he gave a measured performance as the fighter who wanted a quiet life. Whilst everybody else was shouting around him, Wahlberg kept his cool and perfectly portrayed Micky’s gentle nature. The fact that Wahlberg wasn’t even nominated for a Best Actor award is a travesty in my eyes especially as he was the only member of the central cast not to feature among that year’s nominees. Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dicky won him the Best Supporting Actor award and in my eyes this was more than deserved. Bale’s manic energy gave the audience the impression of a once successful man whose life had been ruined by drugs. Bale was similarly great at portraying Dicky’s rehabilitation and his final realisation that his brother needed everybody by his side. For her performance as matriarchal Alice, Melissa Leo also won an Oscar although I’m not quite sure that her win was as deserved as Bale’s. Leo really didn’t show me much during the course of the film and I found her to be a little annoying at points. In fact if there was to be a Supporting Actress winner from The Fighter I feel it should have been Amy Adams, who cast off her good girl image to portray the feisty Charlene. Although I’m a sucker for a feel-good sports film, I think The Fighter was a step above the average boxing movie. That’s because it contained real emotion thanks to the relationship between Micky and his family. Whilst I don’t think The Fighter could ever have won the Best Picture prize, I believe it definitely deserved its place as one of that year’s ten nominees.