I make no bones about it, The Fighter is a very good film. Yes, we've seen it all before – plucky scrapper rises above his downtrodden start to claim an almighty victory; it's a story as old as time. But rarely has it been so well acted; and for me, one performance rises above all others.
Wahlberg leads the cast as Micky Ward, the real-life fighter of the title. He's always in his brother Dicky's shadow, second son in more ways than one. Dicky used to be a fighter and even took on Sugar Ray Leonard but as the film starts he's hooked on crack and a shadow of his former self. Leo plays the duo's mother, Alice, who only has eyes for her older son, much to Micky's despair. With Alice managing him and Dicky as his trainer, Micky's going nowhere. Then he meets Charlene (Amy Adams), gets involved in a fight that sees the police break one of his hands, Dicky gets sent to jail and things slowly start to turn round.
The absolute stand-out for me in this film is Bale. Much has been made of his dramatic weight loss (again), but it shows an actor willing to push himself for the part. Some might say his is the showy role compared to Wahlberg's quiet stoicism, but at the very end of the movie we see the real Dicky which shows just how good Bale's performance is. I do think he deserves the Oscar; however, I'm a bit worried about The King's Speech tide sweeping all before it. We'll see. Leo and Adams, also Oscar nominated, are very good, although I wouldn't say either of them particularly blew me away. And Wahlberg, if only he could act just a little bit better, this would probably have been unstoppable during awards season.
As a non-boxing fan I found the story thoroughly absorbing. For the first hour the fighting actually takes a back seat so that the story and characters are able to develop. There's also a lot of humour here. Any scene involving the brothers' seven (seven!) sisters are a lot of fun.
My only real criticism is that as we reach the film's climax I found it just a little underwhelming, a sort of, "Oh, is that it?" Maybe that's because Wahlberg doesn't quite deliver the emotional punch (sorry), or because I was so focused on what Bale was doing and by that point his character has to drop away a little. But overall this is definitely a film worth seeing and one that will stay with sports, and film, fans for a long time afterwards.