You could call The Fighter a boxing movie. You might say it's a heartfelt story about a working-class family, or a retelling of the age-old rivalry between brothers. You could call it a gritty, darkly funny story of hitting the bottom and being redeemed. Lazily, you might recycle film critic clichés and talk about the "triumph of the human spirit."
All true. But also inadequate for The Fighter. It's not quite like anything I've seen before, and yet, there's nothing self-conscious about it. Based on a true story, it has all the elements of a standard sports movie or family drama or love story, done to perfection: excellent performances—particularly Christian Bale and Melissa Leo—with a spot-on supporting cast, ringing dialogue peppered with humor and heartbreak, a good soundtrack, and some great, stirring fight scenes. To describe it makes it sound like an inspirational tale about a working-class man who overcomes his own demons when the odds are stacked against him, but it manages to be more than the sum of its parts.
The Fighter is a tale of two brothers: Years ago, Dicky Ecklund (Bale) fought Sugar Ray Leonard (Ecklund knocked Leonard down, but lost the fight), and garnered the title "The Pride of Lowell." He's not just the pride of working-class Lowell, Massachussetts: he's the apple of his mother's eye, the prized older brother in a loud, loving clan. Gaunt, gregarious, and prone to trouble, he's the polar opposite of his younger half-brother, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg)—also a boxer, but thoughtful, quiet, serious. Dicky shouts and smokes and jumps from windows; Micky sits quietly amongst the gaggle of his sisters at the local bar and watches Charlene (Amy Adams), the pretty barmaid, until he works ...1