My review of “The Fighter”

I joined dozens of early movie goers at the 11:10 a.m. showing of “The Fighter” today. The movie is fantastic. If “awesome” was part of my vocabulary, that’s also how I’d describe it. When articles began dribbling out that the movie or at least some of the actors in it were considered Academy Award contenders, I was hopeful but also suspicious that it was a lot of pre-screening hype. It wasn’t.

Christian Bale as Dick Ecklund and Melissa Leo as Alice Ecklund (the mother) have gotten most of the attention from critics and deservedly so. But Amy Adams as Charlene (the girlfriend) and Jack McGee as George Ward (McGee played Chief Gerry Reilly in the early seasons of “Rescue Me”) were also excellent as was Mark Wahlberg and Lowell’s own Micky O’Keefe (who played himself). The movie is more than a typical “underdog wins the big fight” boxing movie. It’s got that but it adds layers of complexity dealing with such issues as drug addiction, family relations (both good and bad), and the importance of “place” in our lives and tops it all with an icing of humor that helps lift the film even higher.

As for the film’s portrayal of our city, this is no “High on Crack Street.” There are drugs and drinking and prostitution and crime, but they are all depicted fairly and accurately, and most of the “place” shots of Lowell are of well-kept quiet residential neighborhoods. The city is what it is – Lowell is neither a collection of crack houses nor a gentrified artist’s enclave. It’s a mixture of many things and the movie shows that.

I see most of my movies through Netflix and it’s been a long time since I watched one in a theater but I’m certainly pleased that I saw “The Fighter” today. I suspect I’ll see it again while it’s still in the theaters and then I’ll buy the DVD and watch in even more. It’s that good a movie. Be sure to go see it.

18 Responses to My review of “The Fighter”

  1. Marie says:

    I absolutely agree with your view of The Fighter. Bill and I saw the movie with a Tuesday audience of nearly 200 – mostly senior Lowell types who obviously loved it! Any fear that Lowell would be poorly portrayed were unfounded. The movie is gritty where it shoulld be in the gym with the vintage boxing posters, in the prison and in a backyard or an alleyway but for the most part the city and its people are real and look good – as you’ve noted it is what it is… a living, changiing creature with its ups and downs moving forward.

    I’m a a longtime fan of Melissa Leo. She gets into Alice’s skin just as Christian Bale gets into Dickie’s. The cast is a teriffic ensemble led by Mark Wahlberg but each important. The seven sisters – like a Greek chorus – the real-life, oh so local Mickey O’Keefe – Amy Adams (Charlene) challenging the family relationships – and Jack MCGee (George Ward) trying to keep it all in balance… even the steadying visage of Arthur Ramalho throughout make the movie work. It’s far more than a boxing movie.

    I’ll see it again to more fully appreciate the background and Lowell places – looking for the extras at Top Donut – enjoying the free Taupier ad duriing the opening walk-around in the Fayette/East Merrimack Street area – noting the Branch Street fire station, the Lawrence Street environs and figuring out just where that house is in the Highlands!

    It’s a good movie – good to watch, good for Lowell, a good bet for winning awards and good for all connected with the film especially Micky Ward. See it.

  2. DickH says:

    Picking up Marie’s identifications of various Lowell spots, the opening scene in Cupples Square is an obvious one as are the frequent views down Smith Street to the front of the Branch Street Firehouse. The scene with Mickey’s daughter I think is on Van Greenby in the upper Highlands. I couldn’t figure out the location of the donut shop scene even though I just spent a few hours at Top Donut not too long ago. What about Mickey’s apartment? I have no idea. And Charlene’s place? It’s on a hill somewhere. I know they spent several days filming on Stevens Street near Light Ave. Could that be it? Then there are the courtroom scenes at Lowell Superior Court (both in the Daniel Webster Courtroom and in the second floor lobby area).

    Part of the great scene with Charlene and Mickey confronting the entire family may have been filmed at the Registry of Deeds. We had a room with a grungy-looking wall that had some water stains that attracted the crew’s attention when they were there filming the courtroom scenes. They asked if it would be OK for them to bring in a couch and some curtains while they filmed overnight. If you remember, that scene has Dickie and Alice in one spot, Mickey and Charlene in another, and the sisters in a third. There’s no shot that shows them all together or any mixing of those three groups. That makes me suspect they shot that scene in multiple locations. I think the frames of Alice and Dickie were at the Registry of Deeds, but I’ll have to scrutinize it more closely to be sure.

  3. Steve says:

    I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m delighted to hear that you guys were not let down.
    I was walking one night, and I did see them filming up on Van Greenby or Florence Rd.,
    I think it was Van Greenby. I want to see if they brought the old Highland Tap back to life for the movie; it’s Mr. Antiques now. When the drinking age went down to 18, we all graduated from hanging around the Morey School to hanging around the Tap, or as we used to call it, the Trap.

  4. Sheila says:

    I viewed some shooting on Lura Street. I recognized the stone wall that surrounds the water tower on Wedge in the film. I thought Charlene’s apartment looked like the Tyler Park area, but someone else said it was Beacon Street. Nice to have a new guessing game in Lowell. I know I will see it again also.

    The Invention of Lying showed a prettier Lowell, but I think this is more satisfying, warts and all.

  5. JoeS says:

    The Centralville hill around 10th street was definitely a shooting location, as I ran into a roadblock while trying to get through that area in August 2009. That may be the location of Charlene’s rooming house, although I believe they mentioned Stevens street as its location when the Ward ladies were going to pay her a visit.

    I agree with the movie comments, and it is worth seeing again, if only to better view the locations. Maybe in between it would be worth visiting the various spots to get them more implanted in your mind before the second viewing.

  6. Jimmy Leary says:

    It was Florence not Van Greenby. Great movie, but when have you seen Cupples Sq without any cars? LOL

  7. Dean says:

    Steve, I don’t know if I ever told you that I met Jack Kerouac and his literary agent at the tap. We palyed pool in the back room.

  8. Margie says:

    As a non-resident of Lowell who is there fairly often, I am glad to hear the positive response of Lowell folks to the movie. I found it most enjoyable, with a story-line (scrambling fighter works his way to the top) somewhat trite (I understand it’s true), with powerful acting, and an image of Lowell that is overall positive. (As Sheila said, “warts and all.”) What came through were the values of family and hard work, definitely more than just a boxing story or a crack house story. My rating: a knock-out!

  9. Steve says:

    Finally saw The Fighter last night. Packed house. When the first scene opened in Cupples Square, the young woman next to me said to her boyfriend. “Oh my God, was this filmed in Lowell?”

    It was a lot of fun to watch if you’re from Lowell, but I enjoyed the story, the acting, …Micky O’Keefe who of course was more than an extra was great. The audience loved the sisters.

    Someone said “Parts of the story have been done before.” Yeah, because they work! Parts of every story have been done before. Every part of every story has been done before. And it was great to watch Micky Ward progress to win a title instead of ending on a bar stool saying “I coulda been a contendah.”

  10. corey says:

    Finally saw it yesterday.

    The only location I can add is Micky’s apartment I believe is on Cushing St. With WAS clearly in the background, the chain-link fence next door, and the side porch, it seems right.

    Maybe one more. It was very brief, but the roofing job they’re doing I believe is in Lower Belvidere not too far off Andover St. I can’t find it on Bing maps, but there’s a liquor store there somewhere with a huge red sign and I think they were up there.

    So, we can’t locate Alice’s house or Charlene’s apt, right?

  11. Steve says:

    I believe Alice’s house was on Lura Street, Charlene’s apartment looked like it
    was on one of those hilly streets that goes down to Bridge Street. Twelfth Street or something-they’re all numbered.

  12. RiverRatRay says:

    I saw the flick in Delray Bch FL the day after Christmas with an audience full of Lowellians staight out of Central Street casting. The movie will be a sure nominee, Bale is an Oscar lock, and the pissah sistahs should get a group supporting role nomination. Did Tubby Taupier pay for that sign placement?

  13. Crazy for the Fighter says:

    Micky’s ex-wife’s house was on Florence St. in the Highlands.

    The restaurant where they celebrated before the arrest was the Olympia.

    And of course all the fights were filmed in the Tsongas arena.

    And to Jimmy Leary’s question – you can’t pave Cupples Square if cars are parked on it. (To bad the telephone pole was long gone.)

    Rita Mercier – cameo talking about Lowell’s embarrassment of the HBO documentary.

    In what bar did they film the seen where Charlene and Micky met for the first time? Capt. John’s? Johnny’s Bench?

  14. Anonymous says:

    the scene with the prostitute was on the corner of lawrence st. and rogers st. and the scene with the guy getting a hummer was in front of family pizza