DVD Review: 'The Fighter'

Filed under: Movies

Rated IFFY for Ages 16-18

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this biopic about boxer Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) grapples with some very tough themes -- including weighing the importance of family versus the importance of a career and exerting your own true self. While the characters and messages are ultimately positive, the movie is filled with boxing violence, some of it bloody, and strong language, including "f--k" and "s--t." There's no nudity, but characters are shown flirting, kissing, and sleeping together. And in addition to plenty of drinking and smoking, one major character is portrayed as a crack addict. Taken altogether, the movie is too rough for younger teens but inspirational for older, more mature viewers.

The good stuff

  • Messages: The movie is about beating the odds, overcoming challenges, empathy, and, ultimately, staying true to yourself. There are also complex messages relating to family: The hero must decide whether to leave his family behind to further his career; the point is made subtly but clearly that his family doesn't actually have his best interests in mind, and it makes sense that he should make the tough decision to move ahead.
  • Role models: Mickey is a fairly inspirational hero. He's a good fighter who lives in the shadow of his brother and therefore doesn't get the consideration he deserves from his family. He must make the very tough decisions to leave them behind to further his career and to stand up to them to get everything he wants and deserves. He doesn't give up easily, even when he's facing impossible odds and defeat looks almost certain.

What to watch out for

  • Violence: Lots of boxing violence, including punching, hitting, pummeling, and some spattering blood. The heroes get into a fight with the cops, and the cops smash the hero's hand with a billy club. The hero's girlfriend gets into a knock-down, drag-out fight with the hero's sisters, cousins, and mothers.
  • Sex: The main character's love interest, who works in a bar, wears skimpy clothes on the job and is shown as the object of men's sexual gaze. She and the hero kiss, seduce one another, and sleep together (no graphic nudity). She also appears in a see-through bra in one scene. Secondary characters are occasionally seen kissing and groping.
  • Language: Heavy language includes many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "bastard," "c--ksucker," "d--k," "ass," "a--hole," "hell," "goddamn," and "oh my God."
  • Consumerism: HBO and Budweiser are mentioned, and the logos are shown several times in conjunction with big-time boxing matches.
  • Drinking, drugs, & smoking: An important secondary character has a drug problem. He's seen smoking crack, and the movie shows how the drug ruins his life. He becomes the subject of a documentary about "crackheads." Characters are also often seen drinking socially and smoking cigarettes.
What's the Story?

Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) is a hero of Lowell, Mass., having fought Sugar Ray Leonard and knocked him down. While Dicky -- who's now a crack junkie and can't really handle any serious affairs -- prepares for his "comeback," his younger brother, Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), is on the rise. With the help of his new girlfriend, Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams), Mickey must eventually decide to leave his family behind to seriously concentrate on his career. Can he make it on his own, or does he really need the help of his unreliable older brother?

Is It Any Good?

In his career, director David O. Russell ("Three Kings," "I Heart Huckabees") has established himself as an outsider/maverick, but "The Fighter" is a fairly conventional boxing biopic with very few surprises. Russell starts off using an interesting idea -- having an HBO documentary crew following Dicky around -- but halfway through The Fighter, the documentary is finished and the gimmick is no longer needed. After that, the movie becomes fairly standard.

But even though Russell can't find much of anything new to say here, he still makes "The Fighter" an emotionally complex drama that's filled with rich characters and tough decisions (as well as uniformly excellent performances). Not everything is clear or easy in this movie, and it's a good deal deeper and thornier than "The Hurricane," "Ali", or "Cinderella Man," even if it's less masterful than "Raging Bull."

This review of "The Fighter" was written by Jeffrey M. Anderson.

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