Richard Conte boxes for money to fund revolution against Diaz
"The Fighter" is a watchable movie, even though it has some problems. Richard Conte does a very good job as a decidedly serious Mexican peasant with a very strong anti-Federales bent. No wonder, because they have slaughtered his family and village for hiding a guerrilla leader, Lee J. Cobb. To create a new anti-Diaz band of fighters, Cobb needs guns and guns cost money, and so Conte goes into the boxing ring for a prize fight. Frank Silvera plays a publicist for the revolutionary cause, in El Paso, and Vanessa Brown is his assistant who cares a lot for Conte. Conte moves back and forth between Mexico and El Paso.
The movie is low-budget. The exteriors are quite good. The interiors have that echo sound that's too much like a sound stage or cheap TV production. The dialog lapses too many times into a false or fake way of representing foreign speakers. This is when they minimize their use of contractions. Instead of "don't", we hear "do not", for example. The language becomes stilted. The village life and characters become too romanticized as well, or clichéd. Conte does best at injecting the realism into the film.
I've seen many, many boxing matches and they don't look like what this film shows, despite the heroic efforts made here and despite some resemblance to actuality. The boxing scenes unrealistically collapse too much action into a round. The fighting in the clinches is not right. Neither is the sparring. Oh, well.
It's interesting that Conte would take a minor film on like this. I guess he liked to work and stay in the film-making game. He did appear in some other smaller films from time to time too. For the following 5 years, he was able to land leading roles as he had in the years preceding "The Fighter". After that, he took on more supporting roles. He had a pretty long run as the leading man in a lot of good films and film noirs. At any rate, he's a subtle actor who doesn't over-act or over-emote. You have to pay attention to his eyes and face. He's typically convincing and real. He'll not be forgotten as Barzini, for sure. It's really Conte who carries "The Fighter". Cobb too had come off of bigger films, and some of his best work lay ahead. Like Conte, somewhere around 1960, the world of film would change and the leading roles for his generation and style diminish. I like Cobb's work too. It's bigger than life and gruff but still interesting and convincing. It wears well over time. It has not become corny. The supporting actor who plays Conte's boxing manager is very good. That's Hugh Sanders. He had 214 credits. He's memorable in "Storm Warning". Frank Silvera is, of course, memorable in "Killer's Kiss" and "Crime and Punishment, USA".
The acting in those days was at a faster pace, with fewer stares, pauses, long looks, and so on that occur more frequently today and to my eyes and tastes look pretentious and less realistic, even though the idea is that they are supposed to make the movie seem more realistic. Acting today is too often looking more spaced out and drugged out. The world has moved on. The characters look different. The ways they carry on look different. Somehow a good many of the newer movies, although executed well enough, are more forgettable and make less of an impression on me. I'm getting on.
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