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J.A.A. Purves

The Fighter (2010)

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Yes, I'm a sucker for a good boxing movie, so looks like we have yet another film to look forward to at the end of the year.

- Release date is December 10th.

- directed by David O. Russell (who did Three Kings with Wahlberg back in '99).

- stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo

- Wahlberg says it's the best film he's ever been in.

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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And if I never see another boxing movie, I'll be just fine.

Ditto. O'Russell's involvement is the only thing keeping me interested, but it seems there's nothing in that trailer that reflects what I loved about Three Kings.

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Ditto. O'Russell's involvement is the only thing keeping me interested, but it seems there's nothing in that trailer that reflects what I loved about Three Kings.

Although, if I remember right, the trailer for Cinderella Man sucked too.

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Right. And the movie wasn't much better than the trailer. (IMHO.)

I don't trust trailers, but this trailer is so uninspiring that it's hard to believe David O. Russell's involved. Maybe they're saving the zany stuff for the movie. Or maybe it's just a really subtle parody of fighter movies.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Did I read somewhere that David O. Russell was brought on to this film after another director was fired? I haven’t looked up the details, so I don’t know how much credit to give the director for the final product, which I've seen. And note: I wrote “credit,” not “blame.”

To all who doubted: You’re on the record! ;)


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I'm on record as saying that that was a lousy trailer. But the film's getting big ovations all over the place, so reasonable doubts have been cast aside. I can't wait to see this. (Ah, but I'm missing the screening due to a previous commitment to a Tron screening. Sigh.)


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I don't mean to get your expectations up too high, Jeffrey. Several critics I saw it with seemed not entirely sold on the film, based on the few comments I heard. I sensed that I might be (much) more enthusiastic about the film than they were, but I don't want to leave the impression that everyone should stop what they're doing and make arrangements to see The Fighter at the first possible chance. I saw things in the film that struck me as problematic on a certain level, and just now, reading the RT reviews, I see that some of those elements have been mentioned in reviews both positive and negative toward the film. But in the end (emphasis intended!), the positives far outweighed any negatives for me. I imagine views on this film will be somewhat mixed, with people who don't feel much of anything, good or bad, toward the film wondering why certain people swoon for it.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Andrew O'Hehir:

The magic of "The Fighter" is all in the telling, in the fact that Russell has taken a tale of mythic American redemption and one of those Hollywood screenplays with four credited writers and somehow made a movie so rousing, so real and so full of complicated emotions that it all feels brand-new.

I can't wait to watch this one again. This movie plays.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Andrew O'Hehir:

The magic of "The Fighter" is all in the telling, in the fact that Russell has taken a tale of mythic American redemption and one of those Hollywood screenplays with four credited writers and somehow made a movie so rousing, so real and so full of complicated emotions that it all feels brand-new.

I can't wait to watch this one again. This movie plays.

I can, however, completely agree with O'Hehir on this one. In fact, if you have the opportunity to watch either The Fighter or Tron Legacy this weekend, go with the former. Tron is something enjoyable you'll see once. The Fighter should be going on many 2010 top ten lists. People were literally yelling and cheering inside the theater. I love boxing movies, and I've been to a number of them, but I've never been to a boxing film where the theater audience stood to their feet for the final fight of the film ... until watching this one.

Other beginning thoughts -

- Finally ... someone gave Christian Bale a role for him to stretch his acting skills again. He completely changes his personality and character from any other character you've ever seen him play. And yet, I've known a number of guys just like Dickie Eklund. The extra exuburance and cheerfulness masking a certain amount of desperation and despair. Bale nails this character, and should hopefully get an Oscar for this.

- Wahlberg is great at this kind of everyman character (think Vince Papale in Invincible). He gives the character a steadfastness that you feel can be relied upon, and when the pressure and expectations from all sides builds and builds, you can't help but root for him to hold firm.

- Amy Adams - she keeps playing different characters and personalities too. Charlene has a little more fight/spunk to her than some of Adams other characters. But that's just the sort of girl Micky needs.

- It's a boxing film, but it's also a film about family. Micky's family is constantly letting him down and hurting him. And Micky stays unconditional in his love for them - and, in time, it's his love for his brother that's going to play a large role in how the story ends.

- Sure, I think all the Rocky films are fun. Cinderella Man is one of my favorite films. But The Fighter is probably the boxing film where I've heard the most strategy explained. Micky's fighting style is very similar to the way he lives his life. Longsuffering, cautious, and wearing but with a carefully thought-out strategy that waits to land the right punch at exactly the right moment. His fighting strategy costs him and he suffers more punishment than your average boxer with every fight. But it's kind of a part of who he is.

- At the end, when it finally all comes together for the climatic fight - you're not just rooting for the good guy to win the fight, you're rooting for Micky because you understand him and how he tries to accomplish things that matter to him (both inside and outside the ring). He's the type of hero that anyone should like to have. And he was definitely a hero to the cheering theater audience I was sitting in.

- The soundtrack is mostly classic rock, which I also enjoy. But it was put together better than I'm used to. There was something joyful about it.

- I don't know if it's my favorite boxing film, but it's definitely the most redemptive story in a boxing film that I can think of.

Go see it. Even if it doesn't make you cheer out loud, you'll find yourself with a little more affection for these characters than you expected.

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it's definitely the most redemptive story in a boxing film that I can think of.

This is the key to the movie. We hear that word used too often, perhaps: "redemptive." But this film is just that, for more than one character.

I don't know if anyone has a family member, or extended family member, who's an addict, or whose behavior seems hopeless. Watching Bale's character

transform and leave behind his old ways

gave me hope. I know it's just a movie, and real life is a long haul, but just for a couple of hours, seeing it all come together, it's downright exhilarating.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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This is going to drop a good number of films down the rank of my year end list. Honor/Shame. Redemption. FWIW, my review.

What a family! Makes the clan in Winter's Bone seem absolutely warm and fuzzy. The performances are all everyone has been saying about them. (Including the nitpicking about the Boston accents being a bit overdone.) I think the boxing sequences are pretty mediocre, but that is a minor flaw.

Persiflage mentioned Amy Adams expanding roles. I note that she's down to play Janis Joplin in a biopic. Before this I would have a hard time buying into that.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Saw this last night, and here is the series of Tweets I produced -- slightly tweaked to smooth 140-character-per-post compromises

THE FIGHTER (Russell, USA, 2010, 8) -- right in my wheelhouse, I admit, but, objectively, it still some of most viscerally effective boxing scenes ever. Mark Wahlberg's taciturnity limits work for him in this role; Melissa Leo is a bit overpraised, I admit, BUT she's no caricature, either specifically or in terms of a type. Same with Christian Bale -- it's a showy performance sure, but of a showy real-life person (THAT's indisputable) and a showy sort. And Micky Ward can hardly be blamed that his life story (and legend) fit the fight-movie trajectory so well. Intriguing formal aspect -- the use of representation and how movie's key moments (the HBO documentary, the big fights) are presented one layer removed as if this insular but truly realistic clan (I have uncle who was pro fighter; his career resembled Dickie's) cares most about the face they present to the world. Also spot on as a portrayal of a dysfunctional matriarchy (all the sisters; ineffectual men). Really, the only things keeping film from greatness are the boxing-business liberties (WBU is a joke), the portrayal of Micky's ex and family -- superfluous to this film, and feels like score-settling. Also wished the film could have given more of a sense of why Micky Ward became a New England working-class hero -- it's hinted it but not really gone into


Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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One thing I didn't mention about THE FIGHTER -- no movie that makes fun of BELLE EPOQUE can be all bad.


Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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One thing I didn't mention about THE FIGHTER -- no movie that makes fun of BELLE EPOQUE can be all bad.

:lol:

Makes fun of it? But ... but the cinematography was amazing! Of course there was the dearth of good sex scenes...


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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One thing I didn't mention about THE FIGHTER -- no movie that makes fun of BELLE EPOQUE can be all bad.

:lol:

Makes fun of it? But ... but the cinematography was amazing! Of course there was the dearth of good sex scenes...

"Belly Epokway" is my new favorite phrase. I also loved the guy walking in behind Micky and his girlfriend telling them with small-e evangelical zeal how the New York Times loved it.

I should say in fairness that, although BELLE EPOQUE isn't a good movie and one of the least-deserving Best Foreign Film Oscar winners ever, it also really isn't an artsy-fartsy snoozefest. Unless Micky was gonna fall asleep watching virtually anything (or virtually any chick-flick scenery-fest like DIANE LANE DOES TUSCANY a few years ago), he should have been able to sit through BELLY EPOKWAY. Isn't the sight of Penelope Cruz enough?

Edited by vjmorton

Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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Sigh.

Maybe it's just boxing. I just find the whole sport/spectacle/business revolting.

I live in a culture that reviles Michael Vick for pitting dogs against one another, and that cheers moms and pops who set up fights for their sons. I'm sure somebody will have plenty of argument for why they're not the same thing, but I feel the same way about both.

Sure, great performances by talented actors. Sure, smart script.

But this movie seemed to think it was a film about people fighting against their weakness and dysfunction to rise up and overcome something. The movie thought so. The audience thought so. All I saw was a messed up family striving for a goal that makes me sad, and I didn't see much to applaud in anybody's actions.

I'm glad everyone concerned survived. I would hope for a better life for them all after their boxing days are over.

This goes on my long list of "You can do it if you just try hard enough" movies that failed to move me.

To make matters worse, a father carried in his four year old and six year old 15 minutes into the movie and sat them down next to me. Five minutes later, during a violent scene, the little kid started to cry and asked to be taken our. Her father spoke with her sternly. Then she and her sister ran in and out of the theater on about three bathroom breaks. Then, at the end, after a few more "Daddy, I'm scared!" fits, the little girl said to her father, "So... that guy could be up the cops and still be the hero?" "Yes," said her dad, smiling and satisfied. "Yessirree, he could."

Great. I understand that this is not a mark against the film, but it made my reservations about the story, as it developed, that much stronger, knowing that these kids were watching.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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At the risk of sounding snarky, Jeff, what were you doing in the theater if you feel moral queasiness about boxing sufficient to override what you basically acknowledge is a well-done work of art? The movie could not be upfront about what it was about.


Yeah ... well ... I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there on that one.

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At the risk of sounding snarky, Jeff, what were you doing in the theater if you feel moral queasiness about boxing sufficient to override what you basically acknowledge is a well-done work of art? The movie could not be upfront about what it was about.

Fair question.

I'll be participating in a panel discussion on films that have been nominated for Best Picture soon. Seems inevitable that this will be nominated. Seems likely that it'll be one of the two or three front-runners. So there's that.

I'm always hoping that a film about boxing might leave room for a little speculation about the sport itself and its place in our culture.

I've appreciated some films that involve boxing in the past, although they've usually been about much more than boxing. (The Boxer is an example, ironic as that may be.) This one is about more than boxing, and yet the centrality and unquestioned value of fighting made it difficult for me to think much about the rest of the film.

So I wanted to see it, felt I should see it, and didn't want to write it off.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I can resonate with JO's aversion to boxing, although I'm probably much more ambivalent about it. At it's height (e.g., watching Muhammad Ali or Ray Leonard) it can be a true athletic spectacle. And the level of violence is not much less that that of football - or even the idea of throwing a baseball to knock down a batter - something I consider perfectly acceptable in certain contexts of a baseball game. I think I renewed my appreciation of boxing when reading Rope Burns from which Million Dollar Baby was adapted. There is far more to boxing than just the violence.

I think this film does leave room for the kind of speculation that JO wants. This is clearly a film about exploitation at various levels. Boxing is certainly built on such exploitation. Boxers come from lower economic classes who see no way out except fighting (be it in the ring or in gangs). There are lots of people willing to take their cut. Those who know boxing will know that the championship he wins is totally meaningless. This is yet one more example available in the film to comment about the kind of abuse that is so rampant in the sport. Of course, that isn't the center of the film, but it certainly opens doors for anyone who wants to comment on some of the unsavory aspects of boxing.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I can resonate with JO's aversion to boxing, although I'm probably much more ambivalent about it. At it's height (e.g., watching Muhammad Ali or Ray Leonard) it can be a true athletic spectacle. And the level of violence is not much less that that of football - or even the idea of throwing a baseball to knock down a batter - something I consider perfectly acceptable in certain contexts of a baseball game. I think I renewed my appreciation of boxing when reading Rope Burns from which Million Dollar Baby was adapted. There is far more to boxing than just the violence.

I have the same concerns about boxing that Jeff does, I think, though I can bracket them more in the context of a film like this. To me the violence of football is of a different character because in pugilism the goal is to sufficiently incapacitate your opponent so that he is unable to stand. In football you are trying to advance a pigskin; physical damage is an occupational hazard, not the raison d'etre.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Depends on where you stand on the football field. Butkus: "I'm not so mean. I wouldn't ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately - unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something."

Also, I'm not sure boxing can be reduced to point that you have. Granted 95% of professional boxing may well fit that categorization. Amateur boxing, I think, has a somewhat different focus.

Still, given your perception of boxing, this film may well encourage us to ask what is it that would lead someone to get the snot beat out of them (not just physically, but in this film emotionally as well) for some sense of glory? What does it mean to have to define yourself by one shining moment in time, as Dicky does with the Leonard fight (which he lost, but went the distance)? How is Micky's achievement different from that - except as in magnitude? What has it cost Micky to achieve this - especially in the long run, considering the brain damage he is bound to have suffered?

As I tried to note above, what really bothers me about boxing is what I perceive as a very exploitative system. I suspect all sports are like this to some extent, but boxing amplifies it in large part because of the real lack of organization of the sport. In baseball or football, players will be eliminated at lower levels. Disappointing for them, but then life goes on. In boxing, there is always somebody who will be willing to feed off a fighter's defeat as long as the paycheck keeps coming in. That is very clear in this film. On a rare occasion, someone will manage to pick up unexpected wins and things may shift. It isn't the nature of the sport that happens inside the ring that is the real issue for me. It is all that goes on outside that needs attention.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Depends on where you stand on the football field. Butkus: "I'm not so mean. I wouldn't ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately - unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something."

Even then, that's the player's goal, not the goal of the game itself.

Also, I'm not sure boxing can be reduced to point that you have. Granted 95% of professional boxing may well fit that categorization. Amateur boxing, I think, has a somewhat different focus.

You could be right. I know nothing about it.

Regarding your other points, I think we have more or less convergent ideas, which is why I like the film a lot.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I have the same concerns about boxing that Jeff does, I think, though I can bracket them more in the context of a film like this. To me the violence of football is of a different character because in pugilism the goal is to sufficiently incapacitate your opponent so that he is unable to stand. In football you are trying to advance a pigskin; physical damage is an occupational hazard, not the raison d'etre.

A year ago I would have agreed with this. I still do, to an extent, but the studies that emerged this year regarding what happens to football players' *brains* in the constant, jarring collisions has made it almost impossible for me to enjoy watching football anymore. With every hit, I think, "Brain damage. Even if you don't feel it yet, you will..."

As I tried to note above, what really bothers me about boxing is what I perceive as a very exploitative system. I suspect all sports are like this to some extent, but boxing amplifies it in large part because of the real lack of organization of the sport. In baseball or football, players will be eliminated at lower levels. Disappointing for them, but then life goes on. In boxing, there is always somebody who will be willing to feed off a fighter's defeat as long as the paycheck keeps coming in. That is very clear in this film. On a rare occasion, someone will manage to pick up unexpected wins and things may shift. It isn't the nature of the sport that happens inside the ring that is the real issue for me. It is all that goes on outside that needs attention.

I agree with you, Darrel... and Micky just kinds of shrugs this stuff off. When people challenge him, telling him that his new Vegas manager is a crook, he's all, "Why can't you just be happy for me for a change?" At the end of the film, I was hoping for a shot of the manager collecting his money. Oooh... put it at the end of the end credits, like that stunning shot at the end of the end-credits for The Mission! That kind of moment would have made a difference for me.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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