Boxing Scenes Letdown
Christian Bale is the only thing Golden Globes deserving about The Fighter: Thismovie doesn't belong
The Fighter is up for more Golden Globes (six, tied with The Social Network) than any movie other than The King's Speech. But how does it stack up?
CultureMap contributor Jim Beviglia goes to the cineplex with his girlfriend Marie and lets you in on the whole movie experience, training an everyman's eye on this boxing flick with serious awards buzz.
THE AMBIENCE: We got there early, and I have to say, I miss the days when they would show the really easy movie trivia questions before the previews started. Maybe it’s me, but the overheated previews for A&E reality shows and 3D operas seem to be at an extreme tangent to the movie-going experience.
THE PREVIEWS: I read comic books as I kid, but all I remember about Thor was the hammer, the helmet, and his propensity for name-dropping Norse deities. Still, the trailer looked pretty sweet, and it’s directed by Henry V himself, Kenneth Branagh.
I wish I could say the prospects looked as bright for TheEagle, a story of an ancient Roman soldier which looks like it will only be valuable for a game of Spot The Anachronistic Accent. (“Hey, I think Longinus over there hails from Brooklyn.”)
THE FEATURE: In The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg stars as real-life pugilist Mickey Ward, whose bouts in the ring were matched only by the battles he had with his overbearing family in Lowell, Mass., including plenty with his domineering manager mother (Melissa Leo) and his trainer brother (Golden Globes nominee Christian Bale), who had his own promising boxing career derailed by crack addiction.
- Ward’s hilarious coven of sisters, played by relative unknowns, each with big hair and bigger potty mouths, deserve their own comedy movie. Brandishing Boston accents like lethal weapons, they know the value of a well-timed use of the word “skank.”
- It’s time to start respecting Wahlberg’s career. Check out this resume of really outstanding movies: Boogie Nights, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, along with several other solid mid-major hits. Throw in the comedy chops he showed this year in Date Night and TheOther Guys, and you’ve got a pretty versatile performer, who is now starring in a major Oscar contender. Time to retire the Funky Bunch jokes.
- This movie is uniformly well-acted, from Wahlberg to Leo to Amy Adams as Ward’s barmaid squeeze to Jack McGee as Ward’s put-upon Dad. But this is Bale’s showcase; all of the big-budget nonsense and off-camera boorishness should be forgiven when you see how he completely steals every frame he inhabits as a has-been with a good heart and a habit from Hell.
- If there is a drawback here, it’s that the movie is a character study masquerading as a boxing picture. As a result you get the clichéd fight montages and training sequences set to classic rock, stuff that’s been tired ever since Rocky went to Russia. The in-ring sequences are OK and the climactic triumph is rousing, but they’re nothing that hasn’t been done a thousand times before.
THE FINAL VERDICT: When the action is in the ring, you’ve got a dime-a-dozen, underdog-makes-good sports picture. Outside the ring is where the really engrossing and entertaining slugfests take place, and those scenes are what recommend this powerful picture.
THE BETTER HALF SAYS: Even with a boatful of four-letter words flying around, Marie loved this picture, which says something. She wouldn’t give Bale props over Colin Firth for The King’s Speech though.
I secretly fear that Firth has replaced Jon Bon Jovi on top of the list of celebrities with whom she would elope in a New York minute.