Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams
The Fighter engages the mind, and also the body by proxy. You don’t physically experience the punches that rain upon Mark Wahlberg’s dogged pro boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, but it feels as if you do.
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Micky isn’t the only scrapper implied by that singularly misleading title. Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), Micky’s half-brother and full-on coach, friend and millstone, once had a ring career, too.
He went the distance against Sugar Ray Leonard in a controversial 1978 fight, and he’s never let anyone forget it. Dicky was the Pride of Lowell, Mass., the tough mill town where another free spirit, beat scribe Jack Kerouac, also hailed from.
Now it’s 1993, and Dicky is struggling to rebound from alcohol and crack abuse. It’s Micky’s turn to be the Pride of Lowell, by winning welterweight championship honours, and the two bros. couldn’t be more different.
Micky is taciturn, stolid, determined. Dicky is mouthy, restless and, to use his own words, “squirrelly as f—” But Dicky knows how to fight and how to motivate.
Lowell is a hard-knocks town for women, too. Micky and Dicky have seven sisters that smoke and cuss and judge, but they’re fiercely loyal to family.
They don’t like Micky’s new girlfriend, barmaid Charlene (Amy Adams). Then there’s mom, Alice (Oscar-winning Melissa Leo), done up like a hooker at a wedding in her tight pant suit ensemble. She’s Micky’s business manager, but she’s as useful as a horsefly.
Of this rough mix does director David O. Russell pack dynamite, a film more concerned with family brawls than ringside ones. Bale, who also won an Oscar for this film, runs away with one of the most memorable performances of 2010.