Whenever a boxing movie is released, its success is ultimately based upon the success of the famous 1976 boxing film, Rocky. The movie, which won the Best Picture award that year, is the sort of standpoint for determining a boxing movie's success. It also overshadows a lot of really good boxing movies, such as The Fighter. Helmed by a fantastic director, David O. Russell, this particular boxing flick is a wonderful film, thanks to the absolutely fantastic acting quartet and some great storytelling.
The Fighter is based upon the true story of boxer Micky Ward and his comeback career. Micky is a bit of a mess; he's been on a losing streak, and he is used by other boxers as a "stepping-stone" to their next fight. It certainly doesn't help that his mentor of sorts, his half brother Dicky Eklund, is a crack cocaine addict, and is slowly ruining his well-established boxing career. In fact, HBO films a documentary about Dicky's fall, although Dicky himself believes it to be based on his "comeback" to boxing.
Upon meeting Charlene, a worker at a local bar, Micky attempts to retreat from his career, and quickly forms a relationship with her. This relationship comes as much dismay for Alice Ward, Micky's mother and boxing manager. The two women, as well as Micky's seven sisters, are quite conflicted, and are often having shouting matches, even fist fights at one point. The whole ordeal causes quite a problem for Micky's career decisions later on in the movie.
The story is very interesting and well written. The career of Micky Ward is rather overlooked and underappreciated, and David O. Russell uses this movie to make his career better known. However, the story moves rather slowly, and focuses mainly on the drama between the characters rather than the boxing scenes. This certainly isn't a problem, it's actually important to the storytelling, but the movie can be slow paced at times. The film also suffers from being predictable at times, but that's to be expected from a movie based on a true, albeit overlooked, story.
The film really shines in the acting department. Mark Wahlberg plays the main role as Micky Ward, and he's absolutely great. As an actor with no stand out performances, aside from The Departed, Wahlberg really shines in his role. Christian Bale, playing Dicky, actually shines more than Wahlberg. In an Oscar winning performance, Bale really becomes his character, physically and mentally, and is astounding. Bale's ability to "become" his roles, as he previously did in American Psycho, is absolutely amazing. Amy Adams plays Charlene, who is a tough talking character who is a great addition. Last but not least, Melissa Leo, in another Oscar winning performance, plays Alice Ward with a merciless, fiery passion.
The Fighter is another great addition to the sports movie genre. Is it slow paced? Yeah. Is it predictable? Sure. Is it Best Picture material? Not quite. Regardless, The Fighter is strengthened by David O. Russell's directing abilities and the absolutely superb acting performances from Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and Chrstian Bale.