Mark Wahlberg's 'The Fighter' delivers a KO punch - SEE VIDEO
Irish Mickey Ward film may be Oscar bound
You can see why this project appealed to Wahlberg. Set in exactly the kind of tough working class Irish American neighborhood he grew up in, The Fighter is a film about two siblings (who are often rivals) who have a difficult relationship with their mother.
In the film (and in life) Dickie was famous before Micky, just as Wahlberg’s older brother Donnie was a star in the pop group New Kids on the Block long before Marky Mark hit the charts. Even the brushes with the law, the trouble with drugs and lives seemingly spiraling out of control are subjects that both the boxer and the actor know intimately.
That kind of strong identification with a storyline can lead to an unusual degree of authenticity, and it’s what makes The Fighter so compelling from its opening reel. Filmed with a sparse, you-are-there style by director David O. Russell, it’s has an edgy independent look that suits the gritty subject matter.
Unusually in such a character driven tale, lots of screen time is given to the superb supporting cast too. As Micky’s mother and manager Melissa Leo is a fierce mix of maternal pride and selfishness in a performance that should win her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod. Each scene in which her frosted blond 1980s hairdo appears is a theatrical smack down in its own right.
Actors and producers like to brag about how difficult the journey was before their film got the go-ahead, but the truth is The Fighter really was a years long labor of love.
Wahlberg first met the real-life Micky Ward in the early 1990s when he was just 18 and he fell under the boxer’s spell. But it was years before he realized what a great film his friend’s life would make.
“We used to run into each other at different events and stuff like that in Boston,” Wahlberg told the press this week. “I was always a huge fan of his,” he added. But he admitted it was years before he realized Micky’s story would make a powerful film.
When he finally approached the two brothers to ask their permission he learned that they had already sold the rights, and it took even longer for the project to be green lighted by Paramount.
“As an actor, as a producer, and as a friend to Micky and Dickie, and the town of Lowell, it was something that I needed to make happen. Giving up and moving on to other things was not an option,” Wahlberg said.
The Fighter, as Wahlberg tells it, is about a man confronting his last chance to make good, with all the pathos and fragile hope that implies.
But it’s not just Irish Micky Ward who’s looking for a happy ending. Lurking on the edges of every scene is his glorious, charismatic and tragically self-destructive brother Dickie, who also knows he’s looking at his last shot to turn his life around.
With stakes like these The Fighter still doesn’t manipulate your feelings with cheap sentiment or a syrupy soundtrack. Instead director Russell turns on his camera and trusts his cast and his story to pull you in. Some critics have groused that the script takes liberties with the actual life, but for the two hours or so the film progresses there isn’t a frame wasted.
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