Rated R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality, 115 minutes
Gritty, layered boxing drama "The Fighter" is a winner
The new gritty boxing drama "The Fighter" comes up a winner and is the most memorable real-life boxing story since the Oscar-winning "Raging Bull." Starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, the excellent performances, realistic fight scenes and stellar production elements lift it above what could've been another typical "Rocky"-like rags-to-riches story.
It's the mid-1980s in Lowell, Massachusetts, and boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) has been a moderately-successful boxer, trained by his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Bale), a former boxer himself with drug problems, and managed by his bouffant-haired, loving mom Alice (Melissa Leo). After a series of setbacks causes him to quit the ring, the determined Micky attempts a comeback with new management and a new girlfirend (Amy Adams), which comes at a price both inside and outside the ring.
Realistic, believable and entertaining, "The Fighter" is a winner and a must-see for those who enjoy a "warts-and-all" drama and an uplifting, hard-knocks story. The believable, stellar turns from all in the cast lift the otherwise typical story into watchable entertainment. You'll most remember Bale's affecting, intense turn as the troubled, drug-addicted brother; his striking transformation (including the weight-loss) will change your perceptions of the British actor best-known for playing Batman.
Wahlberg continues to develop as an actor, and while his understated turn as Micky won't garner as much attention as Bale's showy turn, he's still the heart of the film, and you'll be cheering him every step of the way. Oscar-nominee Leo is also memorable as the controlling but loving big-haired mother, who only wants the best for her family, as is Adams, in a tough, different change of pace for the normally perky actress. Director David O. Russell ("Three Kings") is in fine, gritty Scorsese-like form, and his realistic recreation of the intense fight scenes should be lauded.
"The Fighter" was filmed on location in Lowell in some of the areas where the real Micky Ward (who along with Dicky is shown at the end) trained and lived, and it's filled with many great scenes inside and outside of the ring. "The Fighter" is one of the year's best films, and Micky and his story will stay with you long after you leave the theater.