One of the finest “fighter” films ever made, and I fall into the category of one who knows nothing about the intricacies of the sport but have loved all the bloody, brutal, archieval pugilistic films ever created.
Christian Bale’s characterization of Dicky Eklund is the anchor, life force, heart, soul and essence of this flawless movie. Ever since his 2000 role in “The American Psycho”, his star has accelerated at an unnerving , rocket pace. Most will recognize him as the hero in “The Dark Knight”, “Batman” but it is in the less known or commercialized movies that his mesmerizing powers of acting shine; “ The Machinist”, 2004 in which he lost over sixty pounds playing a man so plagued with guilt, seeking retribution, redemption in starvation; “3:10 to Yuma”, 2007 , (remake of the 1957 Glenn Ford film). Bale is Dan Evans, wounded in the Civil War, a sensitive struggling rancher, escorting outlaw Ben Ward ( Russell Crowe) to the town of Contention, catching the 3:10 (train) to Yuma, where execution is fated. Bale’s quiet, powerful, imperturbable, performance has a depth of such polish and refinement that “Dan Evans” will forever be ensconced , entitled in the illustrious halls of Western heroes.
Eminently lauded is the profoundly, provocative, frenetic, Dicky Eklund; a boxer who lives in the past; repeating, idealizing, his one Warholian moment in the ring with Sugar Ray Leonard. He trains his half -brother, Micky “Irish” Ward (Mark Wahlberg, whose’s strong, intelligent and seductively fierce portrayal is pivotal to the success and stunning brilliance of the film); Dicky’s love for his brother is never diminished or falters, never shadowed with jealousy; a pristine example of boundless, brotherly love unmatched on the screen today.
Micky’s conundrum is the dilemma of balancing his stagnating boxing career; his manager and mother, Alice; (Melissa Leo is a chameleon, truly miraculous in wrapping her tentacles around every role she tackles); Dicky’s frequent forays into the addictive charms of drugs; his seven sisters, harridans from Grimms’ fairy tales, and his girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams, tough, tenacious, tattooed, totally disenfranchised from the princess in “Enchanted” and the cook in “Julie & Julia”).
The audience is partially protected from the slow- motion, deleterious, legal savagery: teeth launched like bullets, gore galore, realigned noses, lacerated extremities punching, plummeting the viewer; we care more about the boxers and their trials than the tribulations of the “fight”.
Hurrah for Mark Wahlberg for championing, celebrating, gifting world- wide recognition to this family from Lowell, Massachusetts all “fighters”; maybe not all loveable; but without a waver unforgettable.