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Movie Review by Matthew Schuchman- Three and a Half out of Five ‘Staches.

True story or not, every boxing movie that ever comes out will automatically be compared to “Rocky” and “Raging Bull”.  It may be a little unfair, but no one has really found a way to treat the subject in a new and creative light.  A boxing film needs something special to separate itself from the rest and “The Fighter” has Christian Bale to provide this distinction.

“The Fighter” is the story of boxers and brothers, “Irish” Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, “The Prides” of Lowell, Massachusetts.  Dicky, the older of the two reached a certain level of fame when he arguably knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard.  Now a crack addict, he still tried to live in the moment of that fight and nothing else.  He trains his younger brother through a series of losses for a fighter that people seem to think has some great talent, but is hindered by his brother and his family and their hold on him.

The formula plays out from there.  Micky gets some good opportunities and they either are hindered by unmitigated circumstances or squandered through bad decisions.  He also just happens to start dating a girl who creates rifts between Micky and his family.  Ultimately, his career starts to get on track and he gets some real fights and real press.  While the story is predictable and almost cookie cutter when it comes to the events, it is very easy to empathize with Micky and cheer him on as if you are watching a real bout.  At the screening I saw, one audience member was even clapping non stop through one of the matches and the entire theater came to a roar when Micky landed some crucial punches.

The real strength of the movie though, is Christian Bale.  In another weight loss performance, he is frantic, funny and simultaneously loveable and unlikable.  And while I enjoyed watching him during the film, I couldn’t help but think he is just taking it over the top a little too much, until you see the real Dicky Eklund at the end of the movie and it becomes obvious to anyone that his portrayal of Eklund is frighteningly spot on.  The one thing that everyone will remember from this film will be Bale’s performance.

The rest of the cast helps keep the movie afloat.  Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams pretty much just go through the motions, but you can’t say they were bad in the film.  Melissa Leo as the boys’ mother is great as always and the supporting cast playing the seven sisters in the family will have you laughing every time they are on the screen.  The entire cast helps to bring a lot of charm to what is  eventually an uplifting story, but a thoroughly bleak one as well.

If you are the type of person who goes out to see every best picture and best actor nominee then you should go see “The Fighter” the minute it comes out because there is no way, even if you end up not liking his work, that Bale is not getting a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this film.  And while you are watching him take the spotlight, enjoy the rest of the film; you won’t come out disappointed.

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