Friday, February 4, 2011

Brilliant acting in "True Grit" and "The Fighter"

I saw two movies at the theater recently, both were incredible displays of acting.

The first movie was "True Grit", a remake of a 1969 movie. It's the story of a 14-year old girl setting out to avenge her father's murder with the hired assistance of a drunken old U.S. Marshall named Rooster Cogburn. In the '69 rendition John Wayne plays Rooster. In the 2010 version, Jeff Bridges wears the eye patch. This is the performance of Jeff Bridges' life. Relative unknown Haille Steinfeld plays the girl seeking justice, Mattie Ross. There are some notable supporting actors, like Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper who give fine performances. Bridges and Steinfeld steal the show, particularly Bridges. If you like westerns, you'll likely enjoy this film. It makes you feel like you're on the trail with 1870's cowboys. Unlike the John Wayne version of Rooster Cogburn, Bridges' rendering is more complex and realistic. It's a film that raises questions about justice, vengeance, loyalty, and honor, among other things. Interesting to me was how the tune for "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was woven through the film. There's slight references to God and Christianity, but it comes off as a cultural thing, not a worldview that guides the characters. The language is mild, there are a few pretty violent scenes, but nothing is overdone. I recommend this film to teens and above. It's a great film to discuss after viewing. Here's the trailer:

The second movie was "The Fighter", the story of half brothers who were boxers, separated by 10 years in age. Dicky (played by Christian Bale), the older brother, had a short, mediocre career where the highlight was going 10 rounds with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978. During that fight he seemed to knock Leonard down, but depending on who you ask- he tripped Leonard or legitimately scored a knockdown. Shortly after that fight Dicky got hooked on crack cocaine living a miserable life of addiction. Despite his life-sapping addiction, he managed to train his younger brother Micky (played by Mark Wahlberg) to be a decent boxer, while their mother Alice (played by Melissa Leo) managed scheduling fights. Eventually Dicky's addiction got in the way of Micky's progress and while doing a stint in prison, Micky got a new manager and trainer. Micky ascended to the point of getting a title shot against Shea Neary in 2000. A few weeks before the fight, Dicky got out of prison, stayed clean, and helped Micky win the title. It's more than a boxing film, it's a story about working class families in New England with focus on a particularly dysfunctional one, battling drug addiction and overcoming long odds. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo deliver masterful performances as Dicky and Alice. Anyone who has seen Christian Bale as Batman then sees him as Dicky Eklund will witness his undeniable brilliance as an actor. I am hard pressed to think of many performances better than Bale as Dicky. He's just brilliant in this role. Melissa Leo will blow you away also. I recommend this film to adults but warn of the constant dropping of "F-bombs". It's a rough film, but feels like a pretty realistic picture of life in that particular culture and events as they transpired. Here's the trailer:


Woody Woodward said...

Have to agree, this “True Grit” was as exciting and a seat-griping movie as I can remember. What a superb performance by Jeff Bridges and the new star, Hailee Steinfeld was incredible! Seeing Bridges performance in “Sea Biscuit” quickly made him a super-star in my opinion. The only slight disappointment I can mention in this True Grit would in the epilogue. I really wanted the full-grown Mattie Ross to meet up once again with her rough and rugged hero. But maybe that would have been too predictable.
Tony, I know how you “just love” John Wayne, (HA HA) but I bet you have to admit, you are compelled to now see the first True Grit with John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Robert Duval and the young girl, Kim Darby. Better get in front of me, believe it or not, as old as I am, this was one John Wayne film I never saw. As soon as we saw Bridges in this one, I immediately put the old one in my Netflix queue. And it still shows “very long wait”. Wonder if this one will be worth the wait?

Reepicheep said...

You'll be disappointed. John Wayne doesn't cut it like Bridges does. Sorry.

Penelope said...

I've heard that The Fighter was pretty rough.

Reepicheep said...

Very rough. Real bad language. Explicit drug use. A couple quick scenes with sexual situations.

I don't think anything was unduly glorified. It's the true story of something that happened.

Not for everyone.