Review: ‘The Fighter’

Good performances, great supporting cast, terrible pacing and very overlong.

Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is an up and coming fighter being trained by his older brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale.) Dicky is a fighter himself still looking for a comeback, but Micky is the one with the heart and the best shot, a point that doesn’t go unnoticed by Charlene (Amy Adams), a local barmaid with an eye out for Micky. Unfortunately, Dicky also frequents the local crack house and more frequently misses training session with Micky. After a fight goes sour (due to a last-minute replacement) and a fight gets Dicky thrown in jail, Micky decides not to go on with Dicky’s management, sticking instead with his own management and Charlene’s encouragement. And then Micky started winning…

Somewhere in this overlong, overcomplicated story is something about an up and coming fighter getting a shot. Mark Wahlberg’s Micky, however, is so overshadowed by Christian Bale’s transformation and performance as Dicky you might mistake him for the main character. Likewise, Amy Adams morphs again into yet another character that seems completely real, but the small town “trash” mentality coupled with a meandering plot makes it all feel pointless, which is sad because a tighter script, real edits, and a more subtle performance from Bale might have made this work.

Just like over-singing a song (just ask Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey), you can overact a character, but is it really fair to accuse Christian Bale of overacting because the guy playing the main character didn’t keep up? Looking like Matthew McConaughey on heroin with accent to boot, Bale’s Dickie is an addict with ADD that charges forward at full speed until he crashes, then he wakes up and starts all over again. At some point or another, the director should have asked Bale to turn it down or ask Mr. Wahlberg to step it up; it’s one thing when a character is dominated by another, but this shouldn’t be happening at the acting level. It’s so one-sided, you almost forget Wahlberg is even part of the production when Bale is on screen.

The core story is about a family with a tradition of fighting taking a shot at more than just local fame. They’re not rich and they’re not geniuses, but they do have the hearts of fighters and never back down, even when they rightly should. It barely registers as significant that it’s Wahlberg’s Micky who finally comes to understand this and resolves the film’s conflict by bringing family new and old back into the fold (because even then Bale continues to steal the spotlight.) While you can’t fault a great method actor for bringing his A-game, someone should have noticed earlier on that the end result was a going to be “The Bale Show.”

(a two skull recommendation out of four)


  1. I dont no man. What I see is that Wahlberg?€™s character is very shie
    so when Bale comes in with his strong character it seems like Wahlberg?€™s performance did not matter but it does make a contrubution and I dont think it is completly necessarie to make the main character such a bad ass Sometimes it works just like that perhaps it could off been better us you woul like but the way it was made dosent annoy me at all I think its even original


  2. Watch the camera work. Even the cinematographer is watching Bale when the camera should be on Wahlberg’s reaction. It’s the only way Wahlberg can communicate with Bale jumping up and down all over the scenery. There’s nothing wrong with having a dominating supporting character as long as neither the story nor the shoot forget who their main character is. To borrow a rant from Tropic Thunder: “Everybody knows you never go full retard.” Or, in this case, full mouse.


  3. Bale stole the show because the whole movie was about the family focusing on Dicky. Even when Mickey was about to fight in the world championship, Dicky and his mother were talking about their money and Dicky’s boxing career.

    Wahlberg was the main character but his character was supposed to be outshone by his brother.


  4. Good god – really?

    why is it the most anti-social idiots seem to think they’ve got a voice for critiquing films.

    Did you not watch the film? The film is about a shy kid that overcomes the shadow of his brother – the focus is on his brother, HBO doing a story about him – because mickey in the beginning is just a want to be fighter that seems like he’s not going to make it. It’s about him overcoming the difficulties of living in that kind of family.

    You should be embarrassed – seriously – EMBARRASSED – for having a voice as stupid as yours heard by the public.

    How the hell do people like you get a job in this industry?


  5. Thanks for the comment, Gestotamoseke. I’m guessing you’re a fan of the film, and that’s fine. My opinion is that it could have and SHOULD have been much better.

    Look at the award nominations this season that “The Fighter” is up for. Why is Mark Wahlberg not up for Best Actor? Because he wasn’t encouraged to perform up to the level and energy that Bale, Adams and others in the cast did.

    Being shy or living in someone else’s shadow doesn’t mean invisible. Look at “Rainman.” Tom Cruise overshadowed Dustin Hoffman, but Hoffman didn’t disappear behind Cruise’s performance. Another understated performance (Cruise again) can be seen in “Jerry McGuire.”

    Wahlberg is a fine actor, but the final cut of “The Fighter” reveals an underwhelming performance for the main character or one that ended up on the cutting room floor, and the film greatly suffered for it.


  6. I never thought about the film that way (even though I just saw it today). I didn’t really breakdown each actors contribution to the character. You do offer in your review an interesting perspective and critique. I just took the story as a whole and overall I thought it was excellent. I did give mad props to Bale as he physically prepared for the role. I also didn’t have the perspective that Wahlberg was supposed to be the main character. I thought it was about both of them and their relationship and boxing. I will say that if Wahlberg’s character was supposed to be shy and Bale was supposed to be the eldest outgoing crackhead brother then how else was it supposed to work? I do understand though about the camera work and editing. That is an excellent point. But having known and lived near an crackhead (I believe you call it ADD?) then you would likely have a greater appreciation for Bale’s performance AND the way some people act around them because when you are around an all over the place crackhead you either are delusional (like the mother) or you kind of go inside of yourself (Micky). Also what would have thought of the film if it you didn’t view it as Micky being the main character?


  7. Nana, if the movie had simply abandoned the premise that Wahlberg was the main character and concentrated on Bale as the older, dominate brother who eventually finds redemption for himself and from his family, I think you would be seeing it seriously competing with The Social Network, Black Swan, and True Grit for best picture.

    As far as knowing somebody with “attention deficit disorder,” I’ll raise you one with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and confess that I resemble that remark.

    Thanks for the feedback!


  8. After about 25 seconds, you really just wish that Bale takes a kockout blow that keeps him out of this movie until the credits roll. You meet someone like this in real life, 99.9 percent of all the people I have ever met would run for their lives. The rest would look for a baseball bat they could use to smash it on this horrible ADHD nut’s head. Bale is a total miscast in every movie he is in, because he is just a horrible actor with absolutely no talent. The question is, why does he keep getting cast ?
    By the way, he looks much younger than his supposed brother in the movie, how can he be significantly older ? That movie is such a joke…


  9. First of all, why is everybody in the world assuming that Wahlberg is the main focus of this film…the title is “The Fighter” and both he and his brother are and were fighters, respectively, and represented two perspectives. It can be interpreted with both being the focus – why denegrade Wahlberg’s performance simply because he he had a totally different personality than Bale’s…do you know either of these characters in real life, enabling you to fault Walhberg for understatement?


  10. Critical review of a film should be based on the merits of what the film reveals itself to be and what it strives to accomplish. The story, called “The Fighter,” is focused on the one becoming the fighter. If Bale’s character WAS the focus of the film (ie the main character), the transformative arc would have been his; you could have called it “The Comeback”… but it wasn’t. All of the Oscar voters, the Hollywood Foreign Press, and every other film awards group listed Bale as supporting actor, not to mention he won Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for an Oscar.

    Please understand that I don’t think anyone hates Bale’s energy or performance. The problem is that Wahlberg doesn’t seem any more engaged in the role that he was in “The Happening.” Seriously (if you watch it without plucking you eyes out in a fit of screams) watch Wahlberg in that film and tell me the only difference isn’t that he’s just not as buff. Then compare that performance to his in “The Departed” or even the underrated “Rock Star.”

    Of course I don’t know who these characters are in real life, but that’s not the point. In a film, it doesn’t matter; it only matters who they are on screen because it’s the only frame of reference the audience is given, and Wahlberg’s performance as Micky is far too subtle or simply absent in comparison to Bale’s Dicky, and that may have even be partially the editor’s fault for not favoring Wahlberg’s takes over Bale’s. It may not be fair and it may not be right, but it’s still true, and Bale has the little golden statue to prove it.


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