Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack
Studio: Paramount Studios
US Rating: Rated R – For Language Throughout, Drug Content, Some Violence and Sexuality
Film Length: 115 Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DVD version includes English 5.1 Surround with English,
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, and Spanish
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Review Date: March 15 2011
“You really think your family is looking out for you?”
What an experience. Boxing films are certainly nothing new. From Rocky to Cinderella Man, the underdog claiming or reclaiming the mantle of victory against impossible odds or the fading light of their career. But this isn’t really a film about fighting – well, not just fighting, but a film about a feisty family fraught with failure but firm with fortitude. The dire-life in the worn working-class town for the fighting family passes by without change; the inertia of former glory and the hope and possibility of future glory for the boys in this family, appear to have formed a static world in which they live. But something must give.
The Film: 4.5 out of 5
The Fighter, based on a true story, takes place almost entirely in Lowell, Massachusetts, a working-class town where hard work and luck are needed just to get by. The story is about a fighter, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his brother – a former fighter, Dicky Eckland (Christian Bale), and their family. A film crew from HBO is following Dicky in what was presented as a documentary of his ‘comeback’ – and may very well have begun that way, but Dicky’s self-destructive drug addiction, popular and friendly personality around his neighborhood (where his is still considered a local hero from his days as a fighter), and grip on his former glory days are weights that he cannot escape. Micky is still a fighter, but seen as a stepping stone; a fighter that others will take on and defeat to help their rankings. Dicky trains his younger brother. He’s dedicated to his career, but distracted by the lure of his addiction and own foolishness, is as much harm as help. The family around Dicky tries to protect him from how he will be seen by the documentary crew, but he fails to realize that his fall from his peak – a celebrated knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard 14 years earlier - is almost complete end.
Mickey’s career is going nowhere. When an opponent he is scheduled to fight must withdraw with the flu, his family, led by his brother, convince him to fight a replacement, a man who is said to have just gotten off the couch, but has 20lbs on him. Mickey is brutally pummeled and the loss so humiliating, he considered giving up on his fighting career and his family’s dream of getting a title shot.
He becomes romantically involved with Charlene (Amy Adams), a college educated girl who works at the local bar, and the divide between himself and his family, tipped ever-further by his older brother’s crack-addicted antics, grows ever wider. Dicky inevitably makes a series of poor choices, clashes with the police, and when Micky helps, his hand is smashed. The broken hand becomes the symbol of his relationship with his brother who is incarcerated. When the HBO documentary finally airs, the once excited Dicky is reduced in shame and his once adoring hometown of Lowell disowns him.
Mickey, firing his mother as manager and promising to never train with his troublesome brother – with whom he remains estranged - finds his career on the rise and his world changing.
The story of The Fighter is uplifting, but the true excellence of this film is found in the uniformly brilliant performances.
Christian Bale is an extraordinary actor. His shifts from the suave Bruce Wayne and his brawny nighttime crime fighting alter-ego in The Dark Knight, to the emaciated Vietnam prisoner of war in the extraordinary Rescue Dawn, demands applause, and once again, he puts his physically self through a gauntlet of emaciation to ‘become’ Dicky. Bale does not merely speak the words by embodies the person whole that is the subject of his character. His deft grip on parlance, physical demeanor, and peculiarities lure us into forgetting that we are watching an actor in the full embrace of his craft and believe that we are watching the person upon which the performance is based. Dickey lives in a crumbling bubble. Getting lost in a crack house, escaping out the back window when his mother comes knocking to try and save face – more than once. Bale, who many may not realize is British born and raised, provides the mannerisms, quirks and spot-on Massachusetts accent of the real-life Dickey as if they were his own. His sweep if the major best supporting actor awards, from the Golden Globe to the Oscar, is well deserved.
Mark Wahlberg is a far better actor than most pithy online and printed excoriations would have the world believe and while this role in many ways is on familiar ground - a tough likeable soul surrounded by chaos and chance – he gets it exactly right. His portrayal of a slow-starting boxer is believable, and his effort to bulk up considerably to appear as built as a boxer is startling. Wahlberg, a Boston native, finds the accent comes a little easier of course
Amy Adams portrays Charlene Fleming, a tough lady perfectly able to handle herself with the foul-mouthed, catty sisters of Micky, and does especially well with the dominating mother of the boxing family. Adams, often quite sweet in the roles she chooses, delivers exceedingly well in this grittier role.
Melissa Leo is brilliant as Alice Ward in her Academy Award winning performance as the hard smoking, protective, narrowly-focused, and hard-headed mother of Micky and Dicky. She also picked up the Screen Actors Guild award and Golden Globe for best supporting actress.
The Fighter is easily one of the best films of 2010, with marvelous and deftly handled direction, a first-rate screenplay by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (from a story by Paul, Eric, and Keith Dorrington), and outstanding performances.
The Video: 4.5 out of 5
Paramount Pictures presents The Fighter in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p HD (video codec MPEG-4 AVC). This release is a winner. Healthy grain, the texture of film, and a beautifully rendered and colors are excellently balanced. The level of detail is superb, flesh tones are rich and natural, and the black levels are incredibly good.
During the boxing sequences, the image trades between traditional film and digital providing a live-broadcast visual aesthetic of the kind found on ESPN boxing. It works in the context of the narrative blending an additional layer of reality into this already remarkable involving film.
The Sound: 4.5 out of 5
First, the audio that accompanies Relativity Media’s logo display at the onset of the film will wake up your sound system like a bucket of icy water on the face of a sleeping drunk.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a real treat. Excellent clarity and detail in the sound design, with sounds of the morning, church bells ringing out, bird song, and ambient traffic sounding as natural as if they were outside of your own home. Wahlberg’s pivot to comeback plays to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Strip My Mind (Jupiter) punches through the speakers, and the boxing sequences are alive with crown noise in the surrounds and the thump of fisted gloves on head and body. A terrific audio!
The Extras: 3.5 out of 5
The Warrior’s Code: Filming The Fighter (30:00): This is a surprisingly in-depth featurette delving into the family at the center of The Fighter. The real-life characters upon which this film is based are fascinating to see (just as they were during the closing credits for the film) and remind us just how marvelous the performances by the actors were.
Keeping the Faith (8:35): This brief piece includes interviews with some of the townsfolk from Lowell talking about the fighting legacy, with all due reverence of course.
Deleted Scenes (17:00): Several deleted scenes come with commentary by director Russell, and are mainly pieces trimmed to improve pacing or because the cut scenes attempt to make a point already made from other scenes or the wonderful performances themselves. The ‘Dicky Runs’ deleted scene includes Russell’s son as well as Dicky’s sons.
Feature Film Commentary by Director David O. Russell: David O. Russell appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered (if I recall correctly) and his relatively calm but eager and enthusiastic personality in talking about the film, the real-life characters, and the intentions of HBO’s documentary, are in keeping with his style in this commentary track. The reverence that the cast has shown for the characters they portray is continued here by Russell, exalting the power of the story and the people who became the subjects if his telling that story. There is a good balance of reminiscing and technical exposition here.
DVD version of the film
Digital Copy version of the film: Compatible with iTunes and Windows Media Player
The Warrior’s Code: Filming The Fighter
Feature Film Commentary by Director David O. Russell
The title The Fighter refers to both Mickey and Dicky, for their time in the ring and for their battle with demons. Dicky’s demons are in crack houses and crack pipes; Micky’s is in battling his confidence and balancing the loves of his life.
The Fighter is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. An awards darling, earning 7 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and winning two (Bale and Leo in the Best Supporting categories), this film is not over-stated, theatrical, or guilty of playing for easy emotional responses, it stands out for its gritty and all-in performances with a magnificent cast.
Overall 4.5 out of 5