Hailing from working-class Lowell, Massachusetts, boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is at the tail-end of his career. Managed by his mealy-mouthed mother Alice (Melissa Leo) and trained by his crack-addicted half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), 31-year-old Ward has become the kind of journeyman fighter that champions pound the stuffing out of on their way to the top.
Tired of being a 'stepping stone' and shamed by a humiliating defeat in a mismatched fight arranged by his family, Micky's dreams of becoming a welterweight champion seem to be fading. Striking up a prickly romance with bartender and college dropout Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams), Micky's relationship with his family deteriorates further when he receives a lucrative offer to train under new management in Las Vegas.
As Charlene and the Ward clan clash, and troubled former champion Dicky descends further into drug addiction and criminality, Micky must chose between family loyalty and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach his true potential.
This stirring true story is a reasonably conventional boxing biopic given weight by David O. Russell's vivacious direction and a clutch of fantastic performances.
Picking up a Supporting Actor Oscar for his troubles, Bale - whose committed and magnetic portrayal of Dicky is at once lovable, tragic and very funny - was joined at the podium by Leo, winner of the Supporting Actress gong. A meandering speech that night failed to tarnish a fantastic performance that's wellobserved and wholly naturalistic yet comically large.
While Bale and Leo were singled out for plaudits, Wahlberg and Adams are equally deserving, as are the actresses, including Erica McDermott and Melissa McMeekin, who play Micky's gaggle of gossiping sisters.
Time will tell whether this superior drama can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with heavyweights like Raging Bull and Rocky, but The Fighter is certainly no pushover when it comes to sheer entertainment value.