The Fighter has received a total of six Golden Globe nominations including one for best drama. Mark Walhberg, producer, also stars in this film based on the real life of “Irish” Mickey Ward. Wahlberg received a best actor nod along with co-star Christian Bale who plays his brother Dickey Ekland. Melissa Leo – playing Alice Ward, their mother - rounds it out to three with her nomination for best actress.
David O. Russell (Globe nomination for best director) directs. He has ten other films in his filmography, but this true tale will put him on the map. Russell lands a technical knockout, so it is no surprise that the critical world has been touched.
This film is based on the life of two brothers and their parents who act as managers. The brothers have seen better days. However, they are not alone. The brothers share their boxing lives with seven sisters who have never seen a fight worth passing up. Dysfunction is their middle name but everyone gets managed by strong mother figure Alice Ward. She is superb and dramatically convincing.
The Fighter begins as a documentary within a film that is being shot around the decrepit neighborhood. Dicky Eklund former contender and his dramatic fall from grace are the subjects. Now a common crack addict, reduced to recounting his druggie days in the hood where he cheats on his wife, and sneaks out to the local crack house to smoke his plastic homemade pipe–his life on the cutting room floor. Yet he touts the dreary documentary every chance he gets. Ironically he ends up watching it from the prison cafeteria.
Dickey plays mentor to his younger brother Mickey who absorbs the lessons and his brother’s advice, which often saves his ass in the ring. This mom and pop operation cement their son’s relationship because the parents act as bad managers in the past and present: Dickey is a washed-up fighter who clearly points out his drug store for the documentary cameras. Mickey takes over where his brother’s career left off, as an up-and-coming fighter who surprisingly gets a shot at the welterweight title.
The Wards are a dysfunctional family on good days and just plain scrappy with anyone they meet on other days. Mickey’s sisters don’t take to his new girlfriend Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams). Charlene is a tough gal who cusses, throws punches, and threatens just like the Ward sisters, so she fits right in even without their approval. The Wards fight on the street and in the ring and don’t mind who watches the antics.
After getting a few good fights under his belt, Mickey decides to get serious about winning. He is sought out by a real manager who takes him to Las Vegas to train and arranges a match with the welterweight contender Sanchez.
Mickey is the underdog in the fight and is losing so badly that everyone hollers “Stop the fight!” The fight continues. Out of the blue–Mickey throws the wretched body blow that Dickey told him not to forget. It lands and Sanchez goes down with a thud. Mickey Ward has defeated an undefeated boxer. So he is eligible for the world championship in London, England.
It is all about the fight and his heart is in winning. Reluctantly Mickey brings everyone on board the Ward Express to prepare for the big match. They are happy and Dickey is sober. The Fighter painstakingly reconstructs this historic battle for the end of the film with the kind of attention to detail that leaves everyone engaged. It’s a real knockout with four out of five punches.