The story of “Irish” Micky Ward’s journey to the world light welterweight title as he struggles with his ex-boxer brother Dicky and controlling mother.
Of all sports movies, those focusing on the world of boxing seem to be better than the rest. With films like Rocky and Million Dollar Baby, this one is up there with some of the best. The film is uplifting and inspiring, but not always in the most conventional or easiest of ways. Films set in Boston tend to have an attitude to them, and this one most definitely does. Along with films like The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Good Will Hunting, you can expect there to be an abundance of language as well as a good deal of drug use and violence. Alas, this is who these people are, this is a true story.
Director David O. Russell’s smartest move here is filming it like a documentary, which is how the story seems to be written in the first place. The first half of the film tends to focus on the relationship Micky (Wahlberg) has with his brother Dicky (Bale), his parents (McGee & Leo), and his 7 (possibly more) sisters; the second half of the film focuses on Micky’s comeback. This all works very well with the documentary-style of filmmaking because each character is very well-written and you come to know these people fairly quickly. Russell has some tricks up his sleeve here and there, but his work seems to fall apart during the boxing matches. While they were well done and realistic, these were the only times where I realized I was watching a movie. Somehow his documentary-style did not work here and took me out of the film once or twice, notably during the boxing montage near the end. Micky’s first fight and final fight are the only ones that felt real.
The acting in this film is just all-around fantastic, with Christian Bale giving his best performance since American Psycho in 2000 and arguably the best performance of the year. Some may believe Bale is overacting here, but wait until the end credits where there is live footage of Micky and Dicky. This is when you realize that Bale is simply doing a spot-on performance of the real man. It is somewhat sad that he is so good in this film, because he overshadows Mark Wahlberg, who does his best work here as well as Micky.
Melissa Leo, who will pick up an Oscar for her work here along with Bale, is truly frightening. At first it seems like she’s playing the evil stepmother, but then she pulls off these scenes where you almost sympathize with her and what she does for her sons. Although I will never forget the scene where she throws pots and pans at her husband (Jack McGee)…yikes. The real surprise here is Amy Adams who typically plays energetic girly-girl types like in Enchanted or Junebug (both of which she was nominated for), she toughens up here and works on her Boston accent to a convincing degree. She shows her true levels of acting ability here and should get some recognition for it.
Overall, this is a terrific movie. While it is not always the easiest to watch, it engages you almost immediately. There are some heart-wrenching scenes here that hit the audience pretty hard because every performance is so believable and realistic, I felt as if I was apart of this story. The Fighter is one of the best films of the year and one of the best films ever made about boxing.
Rating: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality
Runtime: 115 minutes