It amazes me at times when I reflect on what propels certain people on the path to fame and fortune. Of particular interest to me is when I find out how an actor/actress got there start (and in some cases, witnessed it). Most people know Adam Sandler as one of those guys who made the leap from SNL to movies; however, few remember his time on MTV as a bit player on the game show, Remote Control. Even more famously, how many saw Tom Hanks on Happy Days prior to his Bosom Buddy days and thought to themselves, “that guy is going to win back-to-back Oscars in 20 years” ?
Which brings us to Mark Wahlberg.
Wahlberg started off as a young kid trying to hop on the fame train his older brother was riding with New Kids on the Block. Of course, back then he was Marky Mark, leader of the Funky Bunch. Then Wahlberg got smart. He dropped the Marky and started focusing on acting. A few forgettable roles, and then, WHAM, he connects with George Clooney for Three Kings. For a few years, the two were inseparable and Wahlberg’s star continued to rise. Boogie Nights helped establish him as someone with skills. The Italian Job showed that he didn’t need Clooney to help nail a movie. The Departed cemented his acting credibility.
According to many stories, The Fighter has been a personal project of Wahlberg’s for many years. He finally got casting and studio support after proving himself. And when I say he got casting support, he got it like Hanks collects Oscars.
Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a boxer trying to make it; the movie is based on a true story. Christian Bale plays Micky’s brother, Dicky, who had a shot and failed. When the movie opens, we see the brothers working on boxing with a film crew following them. The audience is led to believe that they are making a documentary on Dicky’s comeback as he trains his little brother. What we soon find out is that they are doing a documentary on the effects of crack cocaine. What follows is deep, raw look into the Ward family dynamic as Micky fights in and out of the ring to survive and succeed. The language is not for the faint of heart, but none of it is gratuitous. The entire feel of the movie is that it is real life. Amy Adams turns in an extraordinary performance as a barmaid who falls in love with Micky and helps him to find his inner strength. If you think they made a mistake in casting the “princess from enchanted,” then you are blind to what you see on-screen. Even the small parts, like the Ward sisters, were well-played and genuine-feeling.
I grew up in the time of Rocky – I never saw Raging Bull or On The Waterfront. Stallone tried to create some of this drama, but it still always felt slightly fake. The Fighter achieves what Stallone couldn’t with Rocky. I now must make it a point to watch Raging Bull and On The Waterfront to see how they compare with The Fighter.
My advice: see it at full price – easily one of the top 10 movies of 2010…