Like a new Rocky for the new millennium, The Fighter shares the same sense of an underdog from a tough, blue collar neighbourhood trying to overcome that which keeps him down, and punch above his weight in the process. Actors Wahlberg, Bale, Leo, and Adams all give inhabited performances, particularly Bale who once again transforms himself into his chosen role.
There's a subtle sense of humour dotted around the flick too, which helps keep the overall feel of the movie as tough, but not joyless, and similar to the final chapter in the Rocky saga, the fight scenes are handled with the same pay-per-view TV immediacy. By the final fight I was damn near ready to leap to my feet and start cheering with my fist thrusting into the air.
Of the Coen's recent batch of films, I really dug No Country For Old Men, enjoyed the 'standard Coens' Burn After Reading, and respected their unapologeticly exclusive A Serious Man - but out of the three, No Country was the one that really stood out to me as the Coens at full speed. Similarly, True Grit has that same sense of the Coen brothers in full swing.
At the time of writing this I haven't seen the John Wayne version - but I plan to at some point - so I can only go on this 2010 version (more a re-telling of the book, than a re-making of the movie, according to the Coens), but in short I loved it.
Jeff Bridges does a fantastic job at portraying the gruff, almost belligerent Cogburn - the mix of the eye patch, the grumbling near-unintelligible drawl, and a sense that this is Cogburn makes for a potent package ... it's not Jeff Bridges, it's not The Dude, it is Cogburn, and he's a tough man you would hate upon first meeting until you had been through some trials side-by-side that would earn you his respect.
Matt Damon plays it much more straight-laced, with a few flourishes here and there (his cocky flashing of his lawman's badge), but it's Hailee Steinfeld who steals the entire show. Her performance is phenomenal, and all the more so as this is her first movie. For a 13 year old girl (at the time of filming) to be so in command of her scenes - and indeed in command of Bridges and Damon throughout the movie - is just superb. Quite frankly the Academy have done themselves a disservice by not putting her into the Leading Actress category for the Oscars (she was instead nominated for Supporting Actress - when she's unquestionably the only prominent Actress in the entire movie), but then it's not the first time that the Academy have made a daft decision (and not the first for this year's show either - after all, where is Christopher Nolan's Best Director nomination?!).
Roger Deakins cinematography is, of course, beautiful - albeit less adventurous than what he provided in 2007's luxurious, poetic, and meandering The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Rounding out the package even Jarlath Conroy turns up in the movie. "Who?" you might ask - well, if you're a fan of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, then you'll know him as the hard-drinking Irish radio operator McDermott. So that was a nice little cherry on top of a decidedly well made Sundae.