Plot: What’s it about?
The holidays are a wonderful time for eating, spending time with friends and family and so forth. More to the point, it’s when all of the “critically-acclaimed” films get pushed our way so they can be considered for the Academy Awards. Of the slew last year, there were a few that stood out and when it was all said and done “The King’s Speech” took home the top honors. However “The Fighter” managed to snag a few awards for acting (Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale and Best Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo) and it’s highly unlikely that we’ll forget Melissa Leo’s acceptance speech anytime soon. “The Fighter” had a long road to finally come to fruition and it was in no small part due to the efforts of actor/producer Mark Wahlberg that made it happen. Wahlberg, overlooked at the Oscars, worked tirelessly for over four years training in between other films and projects and he finally landed longtime collaborator David O. Russell to direct the film. The two had previously worked together on “Three Kings” and “I Heart Huckabees.” Then again, boxing films are somewhat hit and miss. Would this be another “Rocky” or another “In the Cut?”
Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a nearly past his prime boxer who’s being managed by his older half brother Dicky (Christian Bale) and his mother (Melissa Leo). Mickey is what’s referred to as a “stepping stone” in that he’s one of the fighters that other boxers use as an easy victory so they can go on and have a real shot at the title. Dicky is also being followed by HBO film crews in what he believes is a documentary on his comeback. In all actuality, however, he’s being featured as part of an expose on crack addiction in America. Dicky’s claim to fame is that he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard in a fight back in the late 70’s and he relives the experience every chance he can get (Sugar Ray Leonard eventually won the fight). After his latest beating, Micky is approached to train in Vegas where he’ll have a real shot at the title. He’s being encouraged by his new girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams), to take the deal though it would mean cutting his family out of his life. What’s more important to Micky, family or success?
I’d heard good things about “The Fighter” and after viewing it, they’re not unfounded. Christian Bale had the meatier of the two roles and his Academy Award is well-deserved as the charismatic, yet delusional Dicky Eklund. Melissa Leo is just as good in her part as is Amy Adams. The only one who was overlooked at nearly every turn was Mark Wahlberg who did a fantastic job in his part. WAhlberg, nearly forty years old, kept himself in great shape and it shows in his role. More to the point, the story is all true and Micky and Dicky were on the set during the shoot in Lowell, Massachusetts (the home town of the family). Never let it be said that a labor of love won’t have a great payoff – it does. Lastly, I keep forgetting how much I enjoy the work of director David O. Russell. “I Heart Huckabees” and “Three Kings” are two of the more enjoyable films I’ve seen over the last decade and maybe the success of this film will put him in the limelight. Boxing films aren’t for everyone and most will undoubtedly be compared to either “Rocky” or “Raging Bull.” While both are great films, it’s hard to pass on “The Fighter.”
Video: How does it look?
Ding.Ding.Ding! We have a winner! “The Fighter” is shown in a 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer that leaps off the screen. Ok, not literally. The crystal clear picture showcases pretty much everything that makes watching films in HD a pleasure. We see the gaunt face of Christian Bale’s character, the deep, inset eyes and the veins in his face. We see the definition in Wahlberg’s chest and back. Amazing. Contrast is right on the money as are black levels. Part of the movie is shown “on TV” in that we get somewhat of a “video” look and feel to it. This is deliberate and it’s a good indicator of how good this HD transfer is. This is certainly indicative of a big budget movie on Blu-ray.
Audio: How does it sound?
Keeping pace with the video portion of the movie is the audio as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack simply resonates throughout. The boxing scenes sound amazing as we can hear every punch thrown and landed. Dialogue is overall very consistent, though as I’ve mentioned in other films – Wahlberg tends to have somewhat of a whisper when he speaks. Thankfully that’s balanced out by the flamboyance of Christian Bale’s character. There are some decent songs on the soundtrack (the film is set in the early to mid 90’s) and surrounds do their fair share.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We get “The Fighter” in a two disc Blu-ray set with the second disc being a digital copy of the film. The first disc, however, houses the supplements so we’ll get moving. The real gem is the feature-length commentary track by director David O. Russell. Russell talks of his involvement with the project, his relationship and history with Wahlberg and the challenge of shooting on location. We get all sorts of tidbits and factoids from this track and for any fan of the movie – this is a must listen. Next up is “The Making of ‘The Fighter'” and while it might seem that it’s fluff, there’s some depth to this 30 minute feature. We get an in-depth interview with Wahlberg as he tells us of (again) the challenges of making the film, some interviews with the supporting cast and some on location footage. There are sixteen deleted scenes and some of which can be viewed with optional commentary by director David O. Russell. More interesting is “Keeping the Faith” which focuses on the real-life Micky and Dicky as well as some of the locals (all of which are related somehow to the brothers). Rounding out the supplements is the original theatrical trailer presented in HD.