Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Video review: "The Fighter"

It's interesting, though perhaps not surprising, that three-quarters of the main cast members of "The Fighter" received Oscar nominations, but not its star, Mark Wahlberg. This despite the fact that the biopic of boxer Micky Ward was Wahlberg's dream project that he'd been trying to put together for the better part of a decade.

Micky was simply not a dominating personality -- as hilarious footage that runs over the end credits proved. Wahlberg reflected this in an understated performance that exists mostly to allow Amy Adams, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale to chew the scenery as (respectively) his brash girlfriend, his dominating mother Alice, and his colossal screw-up of a brother, Dickie.

It's this last dynamic between the brothers that provides the film's rough-and-tumble heart and soul. Most boxing movies fake the tender stuff, preferring to feature the mayhem in the ring. But "The Fighter" truly puts family first.

Dickie was once the pride of Lowell, their hardscrabble hometown, for his own exploits between the ropes. But he's devolved into a loud-mouthed drug addict, who's ostensibly Micky's trainer but mostly rambles around town looking to score.

Bale and Leo both won Oscar statues for their authentic, resonant performances, and Adams showed the world she can play more than princesses and sweet girls-next-door.

But it's Wahlberg, both behind the camera and in front of it, who sacrificed showiness to set up his supporting cast for a knockout. In a business ruled by egos, that's the ultimate rope-a-dope.

Extras are decent for the DVD version, and get better in upgrading to Blu-ray.

The DVD includes a feature-length commentary track by director David O. Russell, as well as "The Warrior's Code," a making-of doc. It also comes with a digital copy of the film, which most DVD releases shamefully lack.

The Blu-ray includes these features plus several deleted scenes with commentary and "Keeping the Faith," a feature that focuses on the real lives of the characters depicted.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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