The Fighter is not a bad movie, but it represents as very sad moment for die-hard movie fans. Or perhaps just me. It signifies the moment of David O Russell's selling out. That may mean nothing to you, or it may just not bother you, but for all his inconsistency Russell was a ferocious and original voice, who made films that nobody else had the stones to make. Be it an Iraq War set action/comedy/political drama, or a madcap comedy dealing with philosophy and the meaning of life, Russell was a much more important presence then I think people have given him credit for. Three Kings manages to top the lists of both the most entertaining and most openly political films of the last twenty years, and I Heart Huckabees I'd call a deeply flawed but occasionally ingenious quasi-masterpiece. But both are fiercely original works like no other.
The Fighter meanwhile, is a by the numbers story of a boxer given one last chance to make it big. Its highly accomplished but crushingly familiar award-baiting, right down to a drug-abuse subplot and the central underdog story narrative. I can't call it bad, it features some excellent performances and goes through the cliches with confidence and intermittent exuberance. But. Why is Russell making this movie? As a last ditch ploy for mainstream acceptance, Kevin Smith style. Very possibly, and if that was the game then it sure did work a treat because he was rewarded with his first Oscar nomination, something that makes me happy and sad at the same time. The Fighter is the kind of film that goes by the wayside very quickly, liked in the moment but lost for the long-term. It features a terrific comeback performance by Bale, who has struggled in recent years in picking films that aren't complete bullshit, sans Batman, and delivers a performance of reputation restoring intent here. If he wins an Oscar for this I can deal, as it is a great performance that screams for your consideration throughout every frame. Equally impressive is Melissa Leo, as the matriarchal succubus, sucking the life out of poor Mark Wahlberg's dreams.
Wahlberg himself is a sturdy enough leading man, and Amy Adams manages to make her girlfriend role a little more then it is, still a stupid nomination though. The Fighter is a movie that gives audiences what they want, through and through, and while I don't think that automatically makes it bad, it does make it less interesting to me at least. Assurance is in abounds, but that's because we're watching a movie we've seen a thousand times before, and for all that was wrong with Russell, you could never call him a guy who did that. Sigh. Film's still good though I guess.