After a near-Kubrickian absence since his star-studded Marmite movie I [Heart] Huckabees, director David O. Russell returned to the brilliantly assured form of Three Kings with this critically-acclaimed drama, in which would-be champion ‘Irish’ Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) attempts to seize his moment in the sports world spotlight, while his half-brother Dickie Ecklund (Christian Bale) and hatchet-faced mother (Melissa Leo), as trainer and manager respectively, unwittingly do their best to scupper his chances. Like many a boxing movie, it’s less concerned with the business of boxing than relationships, and especially fights, outside the ring. (It ain’t called The Fighter for the boxing, folks.) Bale and Leo both took home Oscars, but it’s producer and project champion Wahlberg’s understated performance, the kind the Academy tends to overlook, which anchors their excesses. Come the awards, life imitated art-based-on-life as Wahlberg was overlooked for success and recognition while those around him fought over the spoils – in Leo’s case, taking out full page ‘Consider Me’ ads to lobby Academy members to vote for her. Wahlberg, meanwhile, got on with the business of being quietly brilliant – just as the film does. It may have lost on points in the Best Picture bout, but we’ll still be watching The Fighter long after The King’s Speech is a footnote in film history.
EXTRAS: Russell’s rapid-fire commentary is earnest, knowledgeable, precise – and rather boring. It’s no match, in other words, for the hour-long documentary The Warrior’s Code: Filming The Fighter. Shot, like the film, in the now-legendary Lowell, Massachusetts, and featuring many of the real-life characters – and characters they are! – around whom the film is built, it can only be described as precisely the ‘making of’ a fan of the film would want to see.