Friday, February 4, 2011

The Fighter

Shakespeare once said that there are only seven stories ever to be told. This means that since the eighth story ever imagined by humankind, we have been copying and repeating ourselves. Extrapolate that to the year 2011, and we have no hope for complete originality. Even still, can we try a little harder, people.

Taken by itself, The Fighter is a good movie. Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale both give terrifically sympathetic performances, and fit well within the ensemble that is the Ward family and the entire city of Lowell (despite the somewhat annoying New England accent the cast is forced to feign). All the documentary-style moving camera and point-of-view shots really help to give you a sense of humanity and a connection with the characters, and the music does well to get you excited for each of Wahlberg's matches.

But, treated as one work within a medium, the film is incredibly predictable. Wahlberg's character is the stereotypically unassuming up-and-comer stuck in his star brother's shadow. Bale's is the standard over-the-hill douchebag-with-a-heart-of-gold still clinging to whatever faint glimmer of stardom that he can. Melissa Leo plays the typical unwittingly-overbearing mother trying to keep the family together by managing her son's career, and Amy Adams the hot young girlfriend competing with Walhberg's mother for his affection and control over his career. Any experienced moviegoer will be easily able to foresee which scenes are coming next, and there's never any doubt in the audience's mind whether Wahlberg will win his fights.

This creates within me a conundrum. I know the movie is formulaic, but it still manages to draw emotion out of me. Even though I was certain what the outcome of Wahlberg's fights would be, I still found myself fist-pumping in the theater when his opponents fell to the mat. Why is that? It's certainly not out of surprise; my disbelief was never really suspended. And is this experience of emotion enough to make it worthwhile to sit through a two-hour film?

Most of the time I would say no. I tend to find much more enjoyment in watching films that experiment with somewhat original story lines, camera techniques, etc; ones that take some chances, even if they end up falling flat. Even if you weren't able to succeed with your movie, at least you went against the grain and possibly influenced someone out there who can take your film and perfect the things that you attempted.

Accepting the fact that it brings nothing new to the table, I did nevertheless enjoy my viewing of The Fighter. Something about it got to me, even though it's not particularly relatable to me. It's probably Christian Bale's performance, which is, again, outstanding--Bale, and everyone else, watching his documentary in prison is extremely powerful and heartbreaking. In the end there will always be screens available in the world's cinemas for films that can execute the film-making textbook as well as The Fighter does.


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  2. Succinct and well-spoken. I'm definitely planning on seeing The Fighter, but is there another boxing movie that you would say is a better film?

  3. To tell the truth, Josh, I haven't seen many excluding movies that have some boxing in them but ultimately aren't about boxing, namely Fight Club and Pulp Fiction. I'd very much like to see Million Dollar Baby, and really wanna see Raging Bull. Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese are master directors, and I think both of those films could be better than The Fighter.