Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O'Keefe, Jack McGee, Melissa McMeekin, Bianca Hunter, Erica McDermott, Jill Quigg, Dendrie Taylor, Kate O'Brien, Jenna Lamia, Frank Renzulli, Caitlin Dwyer, Chanty Sok, Ted Arcidi, Ross Bickell, Sean Malone, José Antonio Rivera, Sugar Ray Leonard
Written by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, based on a story by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington
Directed by: David O. Russell
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality
Running Time: 114
Date: 10/12/2010

The Fighter (2010)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Round and Round

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In his career, director David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) has established himself as an outsider/maverick, but The Fighter is a fairly conventional boxing biopic with very few surprises.

Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) is a hero of Lowell, Massachusetts, having fought Sugar Ray Leonard and knocked him down. While Dicky prepares for his "comeback," his younger brother, Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), is on the rise. Dicky is a crack junkie and can't really handle any serious affairs, and Mickey, with the help of his new girlfriend Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams), must eventually decide to leave behind his family to seriously concentrate on his career. Can he make it on his own, or does he really need the help of his unreliable older brother?

Russell starts off using an interesting idea, as an HBO documentary crew follows around the older brother Dicky, but halfway through the documentary is finished and this gimmick is no longer needed; the movie becomes fairly standard. However, while Russell can't find much of anything new or strange to say, he still manages an emotionally complex drama, filled with rich characters and tough decisions. Not everything is clear or easy in this movie, and it comes in a good deal deeper and thornier than The Hurricane, Ali or Cinderella Man, even if it's less masterful than Raging Bull. It's perhaps a little too indebted to the true story, although the performances are uniformly excellent.

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