One more award winning movie to review, The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, Shooter), Christian Bale (Batman Begins, Terminator Salvation), Amy Adams (Enchanted, Catch Me If You Can), Melissa Leo (21 Grams, Everybody’s Fine), Jack McGee (Crash, 21), and Mickey O’Keefe (real life sergeant for Lowell Police Dept, actually mentor to Mickey Ward the boxer). We saw this thinking it would be another Rocky (Hello Adrian!), but no, it is much more. We see a full range of family dynamics in the movie, and it is perfectly cast.
We have Mark as Mickey Ward, a true boxer who is being trained by his older brother, played by Christian Bale. Christian, incidentally got the best supporting actor award for his role as drug addicted, 40 year old boxer trying to make a comeback, while helping to train his 10 year old younger brother. Christian’s claim to fame is that he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. Some say Sugar Ray slipped, Christian says he was there, he knocked him down! Here is the problem, Christian is a drug addict, cannot keep his commitments to his brother or family. So Mark is trying to build up to a series of fights to move his career forward, Christian just isn’t there for him. To make matters worse, his mom, played by Melissa Leo is his manager. Not that she doesn’t love him, she is just not a great manager.
So we see a family struggling to get past some issues holding them back. Mark especially has to work hard to get some things to happen, and it looks like he will need to move away from the family members who are not the best candidates to get him where he needs to be. A tough thing to do. He goes into a couple of fights his mom has set up, and one turns out to be a disaster. He was scheduled to fight a guy his equal, but when he turns up sick, Mark is set to box a killer. A real pro, who by the way, outweighs him significantly. His mom encourages him to go ahead, get into the ring. He is beaten soundly, almost unconscious. He comes away realizing he has to do some things on his own. His mom is so focused on the dollars, she was blind to the savage beating he got in the ring.
Along the way, he meets up with Amy Adams, a bartender who wants to get out of town, just can’t get her game together. Mark’s mom really doesn’t like Amy, and she has a gang of girls (Mark has 7 sisters!) who share her feelings. Amy gives Mark the confidence to walk away from the family, to get independent and do it on his own.
In the movie, we meet Mickey O’Keefe, plays the sparring partner who works with Mickey Ward in real life. O’Keefe is playing himself, he is a sergeant in the Lowell Mass police dept, and is the real deal. He takes up the training component when Mark moves away from Christian. Soon it is not an issue, since Christian gets into a fight with a policeman, not a good idea, and is soon headed off to jail. When he is arrested, Mark runs to his aid, a policeman hits his right hand with a baton, which gives him problems for the rest of his life. In real life, Mickey has an operation on his right hand, actually using bone from his pelvis to strengthen it.
So we watch Mickey move from family sheltered to independent, and watch him move up the ladder in his boxing career. At one point, he is facing a formidable opponent, and Dickey (his brother) asks him how he is going to box him. What is his plan. He doesn’t have one, Dickey yells out a plan as he is leaving the meeting with his brother. That plan actually works. He wins. So Dickey is really a pretty good boxer, just not good with his life skills.
The movie was a pleasant surprise, it dealt with much more than the ring. It dealt with family. And as a family member, I enjoyed the insights it gave us. 3.5 knockouts.