He’s the on fighting here. Not you, not you, and not you!
On the heels of awards season, David O. Russell’s The Fighter, a study of a Boston boxer with more baggage than a 747, won audiences over due to the eminently believable performance from Mark Wahlberg, who adopts the Boston accent and punch-drunk boxer persona with disarming ease. It’s almost like he’s from Boston or something. Beyond the nuance, Ward embodies the underdog persona in a way that we can’t help but love. The fact that it’s one of Mark Wahlberg’s few believable roles just sweetens the deal.
One of only a few “bad guys” on this list, it’s impossible not to like him as the ultimate antagonist. He’s cold, foreign, and has every advantage that Rocky Balboa doesn’t. We don’t want him to win when it comes time to fight our guy, but, if in 1990, in an alternate reality, they had unleashed Rocky V: Drago’s Story, you would probably have watched that before any of these other classic films.
He is a complete caricature, but what’s wrong with that? He drops classic lines like, “If he dies, he dies,” and “I will break you.”
Nuanced characters are overrated anyway. Give me giant ones with flattops.
We’re equal-opportunity here at SJ, and while a number of films have been made about female boxers, none resonate as real or moving the way that Million Dollar Baby did. Similar to Mickey Ward, Maggie was a disadvantaged Irish fighter who was held back by her family, but this story doesn’t have such a happy ending. The story takes a pretty crazy turn mid-way through, leaving us to wonder what could have been.
The great thing about boxing movies is that, unlike other sports films, they’re just as likely to have a sad ending as a happy one. This film is clearly the former, but no less a classic a similar film with a happy end.