This biopic about junior welterweight boxing champion “Irish” Mickey Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) brings the genre into the 21st century. Stylistically, it recalls The Wrestler, with raw, unglamorous cinematography that gloriously captures the blue-collar upbringing of Mickey’s working-class Massachusetts. Mickey’s unreliable trainer is his older brother Dicky (Christian Bale), a local legend who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, but who’s since descended into crack addiction and crime. Mickey’s promise is squandered by his chaotic family, headed by his hard-bitten manager mom Alice (the exceptional Melissa Leo). Mickey must choose between family loyalty and a shot at a championship. The Fighter occasionally overstates the knockabout Ward clan (Alice and her homely daughters are like a Bay State version of Ma Barker’s gang), but it’s an emotionally rich, redemptive movie, bolstered by compelling fight sequences and terrific acting especially Bale, who shed several pounds to play the reckless, volatile, and ultimately sympathetic Dicky.
Director: David O. Russell
Writer: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
Producer: Dorothy Aufiero, David Hoberman and Ryan Kavanaugh
Cast: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Robert Wahlberg, Dendrie Taylor, Jack McGee, Jenna Lamia, Salvatore Santone and Chanty Sok