Mark Wahlberg stars as Mickey Ward, a boxer from the 1980’s with a lot of potential. But his blue collar family who manages him is keeping him from reaching that potential. His mom, played by Melissa Leo, is too controlling. His ex-boxer junkie brother, played by a gaunt Christian Bale, is too unreliable. And his seven sisters are, well, just annoying. Fortunately, his dad, played by Jack McGee, and girlfriend, played by Amy Adams, act more as the voices of reason.
Wahlberg is the star of the film, but it’s Christian Bale, who steals it. Will someone PLEASE give this guy an Academy Award? Yes, yes I know he has anger issues. We’ve all heard about his insane outburst on the set of Terminator Salvation. (I actually heard a clip of it and it was pretty outrageous.) But that anger fuels his consistently amazing performances. No one commits to a role like Bale. At this point his trademark extreme weight loss is almost old hat. (See ‘The Machinist’ and ‘Rescue Dawn’. I still cringe thinking about him in the former.) He doesn’t even look like the same guy who plays Batman. But even though he’s done it multiple times, we shouldn’t forget how extraordinarily difficult it must be to lose that much weight, and how committed he is to the parts he plays. I fully expect he will win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year, unless ‘The King’s Speech’ sweeps the whole thing and Geoffrey Rush takes it home.
David O. Russell directed a very good film here. This one is better than his ‘Three Kings’, also starring Wahlberg, which was a pretty decent movie. And it's light years better than ‘I Heart Huckabees’. But I think my favorite of all his films is ‘Flirting with Disaster’, which couldn’t be more different than ‘The Fighter’, but it’s a forgotten gem and one of Ben Stiller’s best.
Early on, I had this movie pegged as a B+, but it gets better as it goes along. It’s no ‘Rocky’ or even ‘Cinderella Man’, but it’s an enjoyable, inspiring movie and strong ‘contender’ for an Oscar.