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AFI Fest 2010. David O Russell's "The Fighter"

"In his introduction to The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg mentioned no less than four times how hard he worked to get the film made, even telling the audience that he'd mow lawns and shovel shit for two hours for anyone who didn't enjoy the film," writes Stephen Saito at IFC.com. "In case that didn't endear himself to those assembled for the secret screening at the Mann's Chinese, he killed with the opening line, 'I haven't seen a crowd like this since I performed with the Funky Bunch.' While one can see all four years of training onscreen in the biceps of Wahlberg's Micky Ward, if there was one wish I had as I watched The Fighter, it would be that his third collaboration with Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees director David O Russell was a little more funky. As it stands, wobbles and gives as good as it gets, The Fighter is a sturdy piece of entertainment that adds a wrinkle to the traditional underdog tale by having Ward's greatest battles come from within his own family."

For Anne Thompson, this "$25-million 90s-period movie is more than a quest for a boxing title (trailer below). Written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, based on the true story of Lowell, Mass. boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his crack-smoking brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale), the film is also a messily dysfunctional family drama, where Mom (Melissa Leo, giving Jacki Weaver's obsessive gangster mom in Animal Kingdom a run for her money) manages the career of younger son Micky, as his older brother, once the Pride of Lowell, plots a comeback. The two siblings love each other deeply, but Dickie's crack-fueled fights and missed training bouts are eating away at Micky, who keeps getting whacked around. Enter new girlfriend, curvy bartender Charlene (Amy Adams), who has no problem literally fighting off Mom and her pack of red-haired daughters, who see Charlene as a threat to the family-run business."

In Contention's Kristopher Tapley senses "a unique energy that's palpable throughout, owed largely to the camera work of DP Hoyte Van Hoytema and, especially, film editor Pamela Martin. The fights were filmed in a retro early-90s video vein, duplicating the original HBO telecasts of 'Irish' Micky Ward's matches, and they have an energy that crackles. There is the sense of sterile choreography here and there, but for the most part, these scenes are quite uplifting and stand out against the usual boxing sequences we've seen over the years." While fellow Oscar blogger Anne Thompson isn't quite ready to throw The Fighter into the race, "I'd say we're looking at a solid contender for a Best Picture nomination."

"While the film may have its Rocky-like moments, it reminds you more of the plays and films of the 1950s, which focused on tough realities faced by working-class people," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. Even so, "There is something a little too cartoonish about Micky's completely impossible family and also something a little too short-sighted in a protagonist who can't see the obvious — that his family, and not other fighters, is what stands in his way as a boxer.... Whatever the actual reality of the Ward/Eklund family, the portrayal here is so exaggerated that it seems at times more like a spoof of a Sundance dysfunctional-family film."

 


Movieline's ST VanAirsdale collects Twitter's first-responders.

For more critical takes coming out of this year's AFI Fest, see the ongoing roundup. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

Mac
Will someone please give Bale an award before he kills himself please.
i like david o russel. BUT i´ve seen this trailer way to many times. It will surely be the typical emotional alpha male figther based on a true story B.S. Was expecting something else from this o russell dude. Fight for your right to party.

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