It’s bewildering to think that as successful and critically acclaimed as The Fighter was, it took Wahlberg so long to get the film made. Wahlberg began to work on his boxing skills in 2005 and kept training daily until 2009 when the film finally went into production after years of struggling to find funding and a complete cast. Once production began on the film so did the buzz and the amount of positive press this film received over the next couple of years was astounding. Wahlberg’s dedication paid off as the film went on to get nominated for seven Oscars, two of which it took home (for Supporting Actor and Actress).
Academy Award® Nominees Mark Wahlberg (The Departed), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) and Amy Adams (Doubt) star in this “remarkable†” film. Based on a true story, two brothers, against all the odds, come together to train for a historic title bout that has the power to reunite their fractured family and give their hard-luck town what it’s been waiting for: pride. Micky Ward (Wahlberg) is a struggling boxer long overshadowed by his older brother and trainer, Dicky (Bale), a local legend battling his own demons. Their explosive relationship threatens to take them both down – but the bond of blood may be their only chance for redemption. †Joe Morgenstern, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
I was quite excited to watch this film as it’s really loaded with actors and actresses I’ve grown to admire and appreciate over the years. While Bale’s character definitely left the most impression on you, the whole film was just very inspiring and exciting to watch. I had begun to watch the film at my brother’s house but found myself having to get up halfway through it to go home; the entire drive home I kept thinking about the film and by the time I got back to pop the disc in, I had no problem picking up right where it left off. It’s just one of those films that really envelopes you as you watch it and doesn’t let go until the credits roll (and even then it’s hard not to think about it).
Truth be told the film is really just your usual cookie cutter success story about an underdog who overcomes the odds to reach victory. Amidst this is some family strife and plenty of turmoil to keep the drama alive, but for the most part it really isn’t a movie that ever surprises you; it’s just a film that entertains you relentlessly. It helps that a lot of the cast are authentic Lowell residents and everything about the film is really just grounded in such a way that it never feels unbelievable or ridiculous. The repetitious nature of characters behaviors (Dicky’s repeated jumping out of a window comes to mind) also lends credibility to the story as the film doesn’t shy away from the repetitious and stupid things that people do. It really paints the whole picture of the family as well as the town and the pride they have for a pair of its members and doesn’t censor or gloss over any blemish.
I’ll admit that I sometimes have an issue taking Wahlberg seriously after The Happening, but after seeing him in The Other Guys I realized that he’s just as great a comedic actor as he is dramatic…and I’ve no idea what the hell happened with The Happening, but I’ll just chalk that up to a comedy as well. Wahlberg’s leading role performance here is every bit as impressive as the rest of the casts, especially during the rant he goes on in the ring after Dicky gets out of jail. It’s deeply emotional and everyone just fires all cylinders in that scene; it’s no wonder the film was responsible for three Oscar nominations in the acting categories alone…this is a really potent film.
Even though the film follows the usual pattern of sports films as I said before, I was a bit wary of where the film would end up. I didn’t know the end of the story so Micky’s triumph at the last minute was a real goose bump giver regardless. Mix it in with the final footage of Dicky and Micky on the couch and you have a really emotional and satisfying ending. I can’t say I was totally surprised but it was exactly the ending you wanted regardless and despite its predictability it was something that will stick with you regardless of how many years go by.
While Bale, Adams, and Melissa Leo really stole the show in the film for the most part, the film couldn’t have been what it was without everyone’s participation. It’s a really remarkable film and while all the Oscar and other nominations are already probably enough of a signifier to check this one out, it really is something that is Highly Recommended. Sometimes Oscar films don’t live up to their hype, but The Fighter is everything you want it to be and then some.
Paramount pushes out their Oscar winning film on Blu-ray in a standard two-disc Elite Blu-ray case. Underneath the slipcover (which is nicely done with its black abyss and gold accents) is the case with the Blu-ray and DVD/Digital Copy discs inside. An insert for the digital copy redemption is included, but nothing else really stands out about the packaging of this set—it’s understated, yet decidedly quite nicely done at the same time.
Modern production wrapped up in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer…do you really expect anything other than perfect? The Fighter looks fantastic with really only a few instances of banding to take away from an otherwise absolutely flawless transfer. Colors look great; while not vibrant, they still have their moments where they pop. Black levels are nice and deep and there really isn’t a problem to be had with this transfer. It’s really hard to fault this transfer on much of anything and the audio, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, is spectacular as well. With a great soundtrack to accompany nearly every scene in the film and plenty of bass and surround usage during the fight and/or one of the many screaming/yelling sequences, there really isn’t a lack of depth in this track. Overall a very fitting A/V package for such a solid film.
• Commentary by Director David O. Russell
• Featurette: The Warriors Code: Filming The Fighter
• Featurette: Keeping the Faith
• Additional Scenes: Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary on selected scenes)
Once you get past the commentary there is less than an hour of other material to check out; while the featurettes are definitely worth checking out there really just isn’t much material here. I would’ve expected the commentary to at least include Wahlberg as well considering how passionate it was about this project, but there’s surprisingly little from him on this set for as dedicated to the project as he was. In any case this is still a Highly Recommended disc and one you won’t want to miss.
The Fighter arrives on Blu-ray + DVD and DVD on March 15th.