‘Fighter’ challenges cliche sports movies

Sports movies usually contain so many clichés that the ending is easy to predict.

The protagonist loses a game, fights through adversity and then wins the “big game” with an underdog mentality.

The audience is amazed. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

“The Fighter” is no different. But in a decade with few good sports films, “The Fighter” is a winner and one of 2010’s most surprising films, despite a predictable plot.

“The Fighter” tells the true story of professional boxer Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, a small town hero from Lowell, Mass., who battles family problems and an unfulfilling boxing career.

The story takes place primarily in the early 1990s, when Ward is at the peak of his career.

Ward’s family is instrumental to his boxing career – His mother, Alice Ward, played by Melissa Leo, is his manager, and his half-brother, Dicky Eklund, played by Christian Bale, is his trainer.

 Eklund was a successful professional boxer in his prime, defeating Sugar Ray Leonard in one match, but now he is a washed-up drug addict who faces constant legal problems.

Eklund is an undependable trainer.

His lateness to Micky’s training sessions, combined with an addiction to cocaine, puts stress on their relationship, and Micky wonders if he should stick with Dicky.

On the other hand, Alice could not be more supportive of her son.

At times, her support is oppressive, as she manages every aspect of Micky’s boxing career to the point where he has little to say about the direction he would like to go in.

Early in the film, Alice schedules an HBO televised boxing match for Micky in Atlantic City, N.J.

Right before the match, Micky’s competitor drops out due to an illness.

His replacement is out of shape, but still bests Micky because he is 20 pounds heavier.

Since his family never seems to look out for his best interest and he consistently loses matches, he gives up and goes into a mini-retirement.

During this time, he gets a new girlfriend, Charlene Fleming, played by Amy Adams, who helps him heal his psychological and emotional wounds.

With Fleming’s encouragement, he makes a return to the ring – only this time, his does it his way.

For example, he accepts an invitation to train in Las Vegas, a decision that upsets his family.

Superb acting completes the film’s brilliance.

Christian Bale plays complicated Dicky Eklund perfectly.

 Bale, who has been known to obsess over acting roles, lost weight to look like a cocaine addict.

Also, he said he put in numerous hours to practice the mannerisms of the real-life Eklund, efforts that should soon be rewarded with an Oscar.

Director David O. Russell did a brilliant job with the “The Fighter,” the first film he directed since “Soldier’s Pay” in 2004.

Though the story of an underdog who rises to stardom through hard work has been told too many times, Russell makes it fresh.

His mix of sport and drama add depth to the typical sports movie.

JACOB TARR

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