Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Untimely Review: The Fighter

Working class hero films tend to draw me in.

I appreciate watching someone driven by passion and overcome adversity to achieve a goal. The storytelling can even be mediocre; whenever I watch Rocky films I see the melodrama and weak dialogue. Yet  I still get charged by the adrenaline rush because I see what has challenged my own family members and me. Though we aren't working-class heroes or win boxing matches in my family, the victories cause me to raise my arms in joy, and kneel in thanks to God. Such displays of humility represent the faith, ritual and athleticism of "Irish" Micky Ward in The Fighter.

The Fighter is a film that doesn't hide the fact that that it's a boxing film, and Mark Wahlberg and his production crew don't gloss over the boxing details. The ability to suspend any disbelief and completely lock-in to the story results from execution of the boxing details--the sweat, blood, broken bones, and mind-numbing blows (though not a gratuitous display of violence). If boxing is a sport that you can't tolerate, this film may not be for you. In its entirety, the film is about relationships. If you're on the edge about boxing, hang on to the film for the relational story telling. Each major character wrestles with both their gifts and demons and each with a web of relationships. Whereas many sports films rely on adrenaline to carry the story, the adrenaline ultimately overpowers anything that could be a story. As one of the producers, Wahlberg and his colleagues executed a balance in this film that rises above the stereotypes and cliches of sports and boxing.

Through the attention to detail in film making in The Fighter, the story joins a rare group of film plots: we see an authentic depiction of forgiveness. Too often forgiveness is seen as a minor detail to tie up the story. Since The Fighter is based on a true story the forgiveness aspect rings true, but there are no guarantees a screenplay will render accurate the emotional toil of forgiveness rather than a trite pronouncement.

I gave this film a lot of leeway because I love sports and working-class hero stories. What I didn't expect was such a tight and well-crafted story and screenplay. I forgot I was watching a film and realized I was closer to the drama than I ever imagined, and forgiveness carries the day.

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