One of the best sports movies ever made is on Irish TV tonight 5 years ago

One of the best sports movies ever made is on Irish TV tonight

90% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and making $129.2 million on a $25 million budget, The Fighter was a winner in just about every way that counts.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Editing, Best Screenplay and Best Director, while Amy Adams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but actually lost out to her co-star Melissa Leo, and (obviously) Christian Bale went home with the Best Supporting Actor trophy.


Shockingly, Wahlberg wasn't even nominated. That year's Best Actor race was a bit of a mixed bag, with James Franco (127 Hours), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Jeff Bridges (True Grit) and Javier Barden (Biutiful) losing out to Colin Firth in The King's Speech.

Of course, it stands to reason that Wahlberg wouldn't get any kind of recognition, for a number of reasons.

First of all, with Bale and Adams and Leo all burning so brightly that they were practically scorching a small hole in the screen, initially it felt like Wahlberg was more of a wallflower in his own movie, allowing the supporting roles to fight for centre stage around him.

But perhaps more serendipitously, it perfectly reflects Wahlberg's character in the movie itself.


Playing real-life boxer Mickey Ward, Wahlberg is a local hero, a man of the people, but never someone that the world would consider taking too seriously.

Between a mix of poor management by his tyrannical mother Alice (Leo), while his coach is a former-champ and current-junkie Dicky (Bale), it is only when he meets the potential love of his life Charlene Fleming (Adams) that he gets the hunger to get back into the ring.

The whole thing is based on the powerful HBO documentary High On Crack Street: Lost Lives In Lowell, which caught the eye of Wahlberg, who decided to produce the fictionalised version of the story himself, which is also why you see Dicky talking to the HBO cameras throughout the movie itself.

There are so many parallels to draw here between the movie and reality. It might sound lazy to presume, but we expect Bale, Leo and Adams to be amazing, but it was nice to see Wahlberg actually, y'know, ACT again.


Sure, he was great in Boogie Nights, and yes, he was one of the highlights in The Departed, but too often it felt like he was playing vague variations of him. Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg, whereas with The Fighter, the natural room-engulfing charisma and bravado that we normally associate him with fell away, and we got to see a side to Wahlberg we had barely knew even existed.

Even Christian Bale needed The Fighter more than he realised; having come off the one-two count of The Dark Knight and Terminator: Salvation, one of the modern cinema's greatest actors was beginning to be pigeon-holed as the thinking man's blockbuster star, and playing Dickie gave him a chance to remind Hollywood just how mind-blowingly impressive an actor he can be when he decides to be.

It also represented a comeback for the movie's director David O. Russell, who hadn't directed anything since 2004's sorta-flop I Heart Huckabees. Off the back of The Fighter's reception, O. Russell has been in constant close contact with Oscar attention with the likes of Silver Lining's Playbook, American Hustle and Joy.

The Fighter represents fighting against the tide, the perception the public has of you and coming out the other side having proved something to yourself and to everyone else, and for that reason alone it becomes one of the greatest sports movies ever made.


The Fighter is on RTE Two at 9pm tonight. If you haven't seen it, do not miss it.

Clip via eOnefilms