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Blu-ray Reviews: The Fighter

Originally published in Sound and Image, 2011
Last updated 18 August 2012

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The Fighter
2010 - Roadshow Entertainment
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mickey O'Keefe and Jack McGee

Movie: Picture: Sound: Extras:

It took me a long time to write this review of The Fighter, and I blame the movie itself for that. You see, every time I re-ran a bit of the movie to check something, it sucked me right in again and I'd end up watching either a big chunk of it again, or stay with it all the way to the end.

The movie is based on the true story of the America boxer Micky Ward, who had a two stage career. He was very successful as a youngster, but the movie starts as he's hitting rock bottom in his career, having lost several bouts in a row, and charts his return to form.

The movie is as much about Ward and his family as about his fights. Obviously I don't want to say much about what actually happens. Even the second time I found myself on the edge of my seat through much of it.

Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, while Christian Bale plays his half brother and trainer, former boxer Dicky Ecklund. The weird thing about Christian Bale is that he is both a star, and a truly great character actor. In this movie I can imagine him as the same actor who starred in American Psycho, but Batman Begins, Terminator Salvation and The Dark Knight? It's hard to believe they're the same person.

When you've finished watching the movie, check out the special extras. See the real Dicky Ecklund and you will understand precisely why Christian Bale, who played Dicky, was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. You will also see why Mark Wahlberg seems to be such a credible boxer: because of production delays, he spent four years training for the role.

Mostly set amongst the weatherboard homes of Lowell, Massachusetts, the colour palette is naturalistic. There's little in the way of jittery camera movement. The fights were shot by a crew which does boxing matches for cable TV, giving a fine sense of realism there. I thought the few brief VHS flashbacks were a bit irritating because they were presented in a ridiculously stretched 2.35:1 aspect. In the fights themselves there was an evocation of TV by means of brief flashes of visible interlacing.

A brief segment on the first date shows how revealing Blu-ray is. The director seems to have selected a take that satisfied him (as it should have) for performance values, but this low-contrast section barely qualifies with regard to picture quality. All mercilessly revealed. Fortunately, that piece of poor cinematography is rare.

The sound was serviceable for what is much of the time a talky kind of movie, although there were a fair few decently presented contemporary songs. One bit involving pounding on a closed door, heard from within, was particularly effective.

Extras are in the form of deleted scenes, some with director's commentary, a couple of featurettes and a commentary for the full movie.

But plan ahead for watching the movie. The culture in which the people depicted in the movie live is one where the 'F' word is used as an all purpose adjective and adverb, generally without anger. Someone on the Internet Movie Database has noted in the 'Parental Advisory' section that this word is used about 107 times. I suspect that is an underestimation.

Running time: 116 minutes
Picture: 2.35:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 24.92Mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 4056kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); English: LPCM 24/48 2/0.0 @ 2304kbps; Commentary, English Audio Descriptive: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 640kbps
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: 4 Featurettes (1080p24 - 39 mins); Selected Deleted Scenes with Director's Commentary (1080p24 - 7 min); Complete Deleted Scenes (1080p24 - 20 mins)
Restrictions: Rated (Australian rating); Locked to Region B

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.7:

© 2002-2012, Stephen Dawson