The Fighter (David O. Russell, 2010): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the Riviera, Santa Barbara, CA.

  The Fighter  is based on the real life story of two boxers, “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), from Lowell, Massachusetts.

Dicky, a former boxer and known as the “Pride of Lowell,”  had his fifteen minutes of fame in the one-time fight with Sugar Ray Leonard back in ’78 in which he was defeated, but constantly lives in the glory of it.  Dicky trains his younger brother Micky with all of his expertise only when he is not distracted by a local crack house or the HBO camera that follows him around in an attempt to document his drug abuse.

Micky has the makings of a champ, if not for his crack addicted brother and their domineering mother Alice (Melissa Leo), who manages Micky, but is openly rooting for a comeback for Dicky.  Charlene (Amy Adams) is Micky’s girl and always in his corner, but is referred to as the skank by his sisters, since she advises him to lose Alice and Dicky for a  more professional management team.

A brush with the law puts Dicky behind bars, while Micky gets better management and opportunities.  Yet despite the chaos that encircles his  family, Micky realizes he wants and needs their support in order to win the WBU Light Welterweight Championship title.

Great action sequences abound, with the fight scenes shot by an HBO crew for authenticity.  Wahlberg is fit, has the physique and moves of a pro-boxer, and portrays Micky with a low-key intensity that is his strongest role yet.  Bale, who lost about thirty pounds in order to portray the drug-addled Dicky, is so immersed into his kinetic character that you forget he’s Christian Bale.  Truly a remarkable film and completely entertaining with the humor, hurt and triumph of a dysfunctional family.

The Fighter is as good, if not better, than Rocky or Raging Bull.

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