The Fighter V. The Wrestler: Round One

We had intended on reviewing two movies that narratively, thematically and dramatically are rather similar.  The first Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler and the second David O. Russell's The Fighter but instead of serving up two straight forward reviews we figured we'd pit them against one another, there's no title or paycheque on the line's the bout for nout and it's on!!

This is not the first time we’ve seen pugilist take on grappler, long before Wahlberg and Rourke we’ve been treated to the drama of Shawn Michaels versus Stone Cold Steve Austin with the added spice of Mike Tyson and before that there was Rocky Balboa going toe to toe with Hulk Hogan (aka Thunderlips!) but in the cinematic showdown between Micky Ward and Randy the Ram who’ll be counting their lumps and who’ll be top trumps?

There’ll be no early knockout, nor will there be a quick roll up for a fast count of one, two, three.  This is going to be an honest bout with the winner shining through on merit over seven punishing rounds.
1.      Main performance
2.      Supporting Cast
3.      Narrative
4.      Direction
5.      Score
6.      Ring time
7.      That "X" factor

As the entrance music ends, the audiences erupts and two warriors step into the middle of the squared circle, primed and prepared to go one on one. 
Round One
Main Performance

Mark Wahlberg cuts an impressive figure of a man as Micky Ward, a fighter in the midst of a terrible run of form, who appears hampered by ruling mother, a gaggle of sisters and a drug addict brother/former fighter and would be champion in his own right (played by Christian Bale).  If Wahlberg looks impressive, dominant and powerful in the ring it’s because he is.  Over the course of four years the Boogie Nights star got himself in shape for a movie that was continually pushed back and back.  Each day on other projects would be populated by training and sparring sessions that would get him into the Daniel Day Lewis level of perfection, in which Barry McGuigan (who trained Day Lewis) said he could have fought for and won a title.  He’s commanding and ever present in the ring, and in training.  In conversation with family members he’s as good as he’s been in a while, though not as good as Boogie Nights, but there’s a calm desperation to his performance that makes you understand this could be the last push for a boxer who’s still nowhere and on the wrong side of thirty.

Micky Rourke (as professional wrestler Randy “The Ram”) is twenty years beyond his best.  When we meet him he’s on the downward spiral, wrestling in the small regional associations, outside of the monopoly of the McMahon family and living in a trailer estranged from his daughter.  Rourke looks the part, he may not have dedicated as much sweat and tears to training as Wahlberg but he has form.  Having spent time away from acting in an attempt to become a professional boxer Rourke has toned his body to be that of an athlete in the style of eighties wrestling legend Randy.  He moves like a wrestler, he takes a gives a punch like a wrestler, there’s more than one moment when you wonder if he’s ever stepped in for the Ultimate Warrior whenever he had a dental appointment.  He’s as impressive and dominant between the ropes as Wahlberg, though The Fighter’s ring time is great.  Where Rourke pulls ahead is his personal drama.  Wahlberg is great but he’s surrounded by incredible performers and is left behind in a lot of the scenes.  Rourke’s performance is ever improving, he’s poetically sad and at the same time you never shed a tear for him, he’s a proud man.  He doesn’t ask for help, he doesn’t ask for sympathy, he’s happy in the ring.  Even after his heart attack he longs for the ring because he can control the world around him there and is not disappointed or misconstrued there.  It’s a beautiful, soft yet powerful, emotional, complex, powerhouse of a performance.  The greatest form of modern tragedy, it’s almost Shakespearian and truly, truly moving.

Wahlberg starts fast and promising but is no match for the powerhouse of Rourke who charges through to take the first round.
The Fighter 0 – 1 The Wrestler


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