UK Release date: 20th February 2012
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Starring: Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, Frank Grillo
Running time: 140 mins
Film: The Fighter
UK Release date: Out now
Director: David O'Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack Mcgee
Running time: 110 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Two boxing movies. Only one winner. Let’s get ready to rumble.
In the red corner - Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale step inside the ring for the powerful true story of two brothers fighting against the odds to secure a historic title match. David O.Russell (Three Kings) takes to the director’s chair, bringing with him a top-notch cast including Melissa Leo, Jack McGee and a screen stealing turn from Amy Adams. In the blue corner - the youngest son (Tom Hardy) of an alcoholic former boxer (Nick Nolte) returns home, where he's trained by his father for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament - a path that puts the fighter on a collision course with his older brother (Joel Edgerton).
Round One: Misery sure loves company. In The fighter, struggling boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) has long been overshadowed by his older brother and trainer, Dicky (Bale), a local legend battling his own demons. Personal problems have a lot to answer for in both films, because Warrior comes with it’s own fare share of heavy baggage too. Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is struggling to come to terms with both a heroic past and a troubled upbringing, leaving him cold to the world outside his door. His brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) has money troubles and their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) is a recovering alcoholic/wife beater. The bond of blood is strong in both films, though one takes longer to get there than the other, but at the heart of both tales (you’ll be surprised to learn) is one last shot at redemption.
Round Two: The Fighter and Warrior walk the same path as other sports dramas, and the outcome in both cases is obvious from the start. The performances however, are at times spectacular. Bale slims down once again to play a drug-fuelled local hero, whereas Wahlberg is restrained but no less intoxicating. Amy Adams impresses most though, with a gutsy turn that should secure her film work beyond Disney fare and Muppet movies. Tom Hardy bulks up and breaks out as Tommy in Warrior - childlike insecurities crossed with hulking ferocity sure make for a mighty combination. Edgerton has a smoother ride, and it’s easy to see why people might side with him, but he succeeds in adding hidden depth to a likeable local hero shtick. Nick Nolte impresses most however, and for once he doesn’t just mumble his way through it, bringing heart and passion to a potentially cringe-worthy role.
Round Three: The Fighter refuses to break new ground with its familiar blend of gritty drama, stirring action and domestic chaos, but with three stunning lead turns to fall back on, David O.Russell ensures that you won’t be throwing in the towel. The Fighter, for want of a better line, is an absolute knockout. Warrior wears its drama on its sleeve too, and both films refuse to break from tradition. Gavin O’Connor’s movie lurches from one boxing movie cliché to the next, but it’s crafted so well you’ll be too enthralled to care. The fight sequences are bone-crushingly realistic and the final confrontation is worth its weight in gold. Up until the final round that is. For a film that embraces convention, the ending is still a disappointment to me. Expected maybe, but I was hoping for a little more bang and a little less sentiment. Still, it sits well with the rest of the movie and I shouldn’t have expected more. On the plus side, Frank Grillo does a great Christian Bale impersonation as Brendan’s trainer.
And the winner is: I don’t actually like boxing as a rule but I do love boxing movies. Both films are worthy of your time and collection, but for me The Fighter just about shades it on points. It’s a close run thing of course, but Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior takes too many punches in the final round and The Fighter reigns supreme. That said, Hardy, Nolte and Grillo give Wahlberg and Bale the toughest fight of their careers, and at the end of the day, the one true victor is the viewer himself. That would be me then. Now then, who’s up for Rocky VII?