Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christian Bale Simply Marvelous in 'The Fighter'

Mark Wahlberg's "The Fighter" has ACADEMY AWARD written all over it in about four different fonts. This one is truly one of the better movies of 2010 with Christian Bale's supporting performance an over-the-top tour-de-force the projects far above its status as a major production.

Academy Awards could easily await Amy Adams (who won in supporf for "Junebug"), Melissa Leo (a past Oscar nominee as Best Actress in "Frozen River") and Bale and perhaps even Wahlberg (nominee in support for "The Departed") who is, frankly, asked to do the least of the majors in the cast.

Bale likely destroyed at least two shots at Oscars in the past because of his legendary temper, but there may be no denying him for "The Fighter" because no matter who he is offscreen, in this movie, he is startling real.

Leo, a character actor with an enormous talent, nearly steals the movie and would have had it not been for Bale's portrayal of a former fighter who has fallen into a crack addiction and lives on the one great fight in his life.

The story revolves around "Irish" Micky Ward's (Wahlberg) unlikely climb to the welterweight championship in the 1980s, overcoming all the things a boxer normally faces, but also working against a dysfunctional family that would be at home on the Jerry Springer Show. You want a definition of white trash? Here it is in Ward's controlling, dominating, guilt-smearing fish wife of a mother (Leo), addicted brother and seven ugly, spiteful, stupid sisters. Where casting found these people is beyond me, but did I mention Jerry Springer?

Amy Adams, always impressive and again showing her range, plays a foul-mouthed, brash, college dropout (she was on a high jump scholarship) bar maid who falls for Micky and helps separate him from the destructiveness of his family, but falls victim to the same possessiveness that grips that gang.

Ultimately, this is a movie about redemption and there's plenty of that in the end, but getting there is a frazzling, often frustrating trip through a world of poverty, ignorance and desperation most never visit.

It is a fine movie and a testament to Wahlberg the movie maker, a man who is slowly becoming a latterday Clint Eastwood. We should be so fortunate that he succeeds.

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