A few weeks ago, we pointed you to “High on Crack Street”, the real documentary we watch being shot in director David O. Russell’s film “The Fighter.” Today over at Fandor, critic Kevin B. Lee posted “Micky Versus Marky — The Same Fight Twice,” a superb video essay that goes deeper into the gulf between fact and fiction in the film. It compares the original fight between boxers Micky Ward and Shea Neary with the fictionalized version that serves as the climax of “The Fighter.”
That comparison is important because Russell and producer/star Mark Wahlberg’s visual approach to the boxing matches in “The Fighter” is to mimic reality: to approximate the look and feel of televised boxing matches. That choice, in turn, suits the entire film, which gets deep into the gritty realities of working-class Lowell, Massachusetts and crack addiction.
To shoot his fights, Russell used the same equipment and crew that HBO uses in their boxing telecasts; he even got Jim Lampley, George Foreman, and Larry Merchant, the analysts for the real Ward/Neary fight, to recreate their original comments, often word for word. But despite all those attempts at fidelity, Russell still couldn’t or didn’t resist the urge to fictionalize some elements of the fight for dramatic effect, particularly Neary’s knockdown of Ward just before Ward’s big comeback. Even “realistic” boxing, it seems, needs a storybook ending.
Here’s Lee’s video: