There is never a doubt about how the fights will turn out in “The Fighter,” except the ones that play out within the family of Mickey Ward. Dickey Eklund (Christian Bale) at one time was called “Pride of Lowell, Massachusetts” because he managed to knock down Sugar-Ray Leonard (though some would say Sugar-Ray tripped). Now he mostly spends his time training his brother Mickey (Mark Wahlberg)–when he’s not deep into crack addiction or criminal activity. Mickey feels it’s his time for glory, just as Dickey, as his trainer, and his manager-mother (Melissa Leo), regularly put him in fights that could get him killed and leaves him torn between loyalty to his boxing-obsessed family and his own success. Meanwhile, Dickey finds himself landing in prison where he must confront the washout he has become. Along the way we meet one crazy, abrasive family, a other-side-of-the-tracks group of individuals prone to vulgarity, shouting matches and violence. A group-therapy session to work out issues (one of which being that mom seems to favor the one-time success-story Dickey) is ultimately inevitable but until then expect loads of fireworks.
That the happiest memories Dicky and Mickey share are when older brother teaches younger brother the art of boxing seems apt: boxing is both the only thing this family really knows and its also quite possibly the most civil and unifying thing they share. The performances in “The Fighter” are fantastic across the board. Wahlberg finds Mickey’s heart and physique, Bale the wild-eyed, irresponsible loser who must choose the drugs or his brother, and Leo as the domineering mother. Amy Adams also shows up as Mickey’s girlfriend and shows surprising roughness, in a family drama that really comes to life by doing the same.[rating=1]