A Knockout: Fight in THE FIGHTER
13 February 2011
Micky Ward is more than a boxer; he is a fighter. Micky physically works hard to become a worthy boxer, putting in hours at the gym to finally win a coveted title fight; yet, all the running, rope-jumping, endurance training, sparring, punching-bag practice in the world is not what makes a prize boxer. To be a successful boxer, Micky must learn how to fight: how to express himself and how to stand his ground. And, as Micky learns, fighting is a skill trained in the mind and heart, not just the gym. Although it seems Micky’s big victory came at the film’s end, during the title match in London, Micky’s greatest victory came from a fight several scenes earlier.
When Dicky gets released from jail, he and Alice go directly to the gym where Micky trains. The two brothers argue in the locker room and the “welcome home” party the sisters’ plan for Dicky gets foiled. As the sisters leave the gym, Micky reenters the ring to continue his training with O’Keefe and Dicky attempts to leave the gym; however, Alice, sensing the palpable tension in the room, confronts Micky about distancing himself and his training from his brother.
In this confrontation, Micky evolves from a boxer to a fighter. Typically, in fights, Micky allows his opponent to keep him on the ropes and dominate the match; however, for the first time, Micky stays off the ropes and maintains control of the fight. In large part, the actor’s blocking in this scene emphasizes Micky’s evolution from boxer to fighter.
O’Keefe, Micky’s trainer, is in the ring. He stands beside Micky, then sits in the corner. Micky’s father, George, stands on the far side of the ring outside the ropes. Charlene also stands on the ring outside the ropes, but at the opposite side as George. Dicky stands farthest from the ring, nearly in the doorframe of the exit. Alice stands half way between the ring and the door, which is also half way between her two sons. Finally, Micky stands in the center of the ring.
This blocking reflects each character’s emotional connection to Micky. O’Keefe is closest; he is the most like Micky, and he has consistently supported him for years. Both literally and figuratively, O’Keefe is in Micky’s corner. George and Charlene are in equal proximity to him; they love and support him; however, Charlene can be overbearing and Alice dominates George, which makes them both good-hearted but difficult at times. These three characters, like Micky, are physically in a higher place because they stand on the elevated ring. Symbolically, they are all in high standing with Micky because they each strongly support him and his return to boxing.
Conversely, Alice isn’t touching the ring; Mickey feels removed from her and questions the conditions of her love. Dicky is farthest, nearly outside the room. Micky distrusts his brother and now understands how Dicky’s addiction ruined the relationship the two once had. Both Alice and Dicky are lower than all the other characters because they are standing on the ground, not the ring. This also reflects how their standing in Micky’s eyes is the most in question.
Most importantly, Micky is in the center of the ring, where a fighter should be. He takes his place as the centrifugal force of the scene and even verbalizes this stance by telling everyone, “I am the one fighting here,” and, from his advantageous location, he looks around the room and continues with “not you, not you, and not you,” to the characters. Clearly, Micky is in the position of power.
Throughout the course of the fight, Charlene and O’Keefe leave the gym upset. Dicky enters the ring, but then leaves the gym and George follows him. Yet, Mickey stands his ground; he gets everything off his chest and never leaves the ring. Interestingly, Alice also gets in the ring, invading Micky’s space. This daring move is typical for the domineering Alice, but, for the first time, Micky turns his back to her. Alice tries to console her son, but he wants no part of it; Micky is a fighter now, and he can stand on his own.
It is no surprise Micky goes on to win the title match at the end of the film. He learned, in the aforementioned confrontation, what it is to be a fighter. Micky learned he needed more than physical strength to win fights; he needed to put his heart into it and stand his ground.