It was with some lethargy that I caught a final week showing of The Fighter, having assumed it to be The Wrestler with gloves on. In some ways I was right, it certainly has the same borderline poverous atmosphere, bubbling family tensions, and features a sport which takes backseat to the driving narrative. But what The Fighter has which is absent from so many ‘serious’ sports films and biopics, is some serious humour.
David O’Russell has created an engaging dramatic-comedy of sorts, which draws upon the strength of it’s fine key actors. He unintrudingly controls the story with a deftness you would expect from a more accomplished director, one perhaps more accustomed to courting the tastes of the Academy. The laughs come mostly from Christian Bale’s Dicky, the riotous brother who insists on training Wahlburg’s champ Micky, who is on the cusp of his prime. Dicky’s acrimonious relationship with his scurrilous mother (Leo) makes for surprisingly light-relief, particulary the slapstick dumpster gag. As the battle between family vs girlfriend simmers, and the title match pressure builds, The Fighter suddenly has you cheering for Micky. Not least because it is clear from Dicky that if you can’t fight in this town, you have nothing.
Considering the film prepares you for something more bleak, the unabashedly happy Hollywood ending seemed like the easy option to take. This doesn’t, however, distract from the gusto the rest of the film demonstrates. The Fighter is an entertaining film, which surely deserves some sort of ‘knock out’ pun to effectively sum it up. But I shall resist.