sun 22/05/2022

DVD: The Fighter | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Fighter

DVD: The Fighter

The trueish saga of boxing brothers makes for a thrilling film

Lords of the ring: in 'The Fighter' Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale play boxing brothers

It’s an accepted flouting of reality that in films “based on a true story”, the first betrayal of the truth is in the casting. The reveal over the closing credits of The Fighter tells you just how well its two main characters have done out of Hollywood. For the preceding two hours these rough-edged veterans of the boxing ring have morphed into Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

Whatever else is a riff on reality in this thrilling addition to the canon of fight movies is mostly a matter for the extras. But to recreate the bruising lives of a struggling boxer and his smack-addicted half-sibling, both actors certainly put themselves through it.

Bale plays Dicky Eklund, a stringy, gurning junkie whose memories of once flooring Sugar Ray Leonard have kept his delusions intact even as he spreads chaos as his brother’s unreliable trainer. But that’s nothing on Wahlberg. Re-enacting the fights of Micky Ward, a boxer who specialised in soaking up all his opponents had to give, he takes almost as many hits to his muscle-encased torso as Mickey Rourke did in his entire face-rearranging midlife crisis in the ring.

The Fighter is at bottom a conventional movie about brotherly love and divided loyalty. Knowing nothing of Ward's career can only enhance enjoyment of a narrative whose nail-biting fight sequences are delivered with riveting flair. If the film that punches above its weight betrays uncertainty, it’s tonal: director David O Russell often jerks his saga towards comedy, usually when the brothers’ gaggle of sisters – a trailerful of scrofulous Valkyries – crowd the screen. Bale's eye-popping performance and Melissa Leo as an engulfing harpy of a mother who manages her son’s career for short-term gain both won in their category at this year's Oscars. Amy Adams throws her weight around as Micky’s assertive girlfriend while Walhberg is all modest heroism - until they put the gloves on him.

Watch the trailer for The Fighter

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