Hollywood's love affair with Massachusetts continues with what is at least the fifth 2010 drama set in the Bay State, joining other prestige pictures such as The Social Network, The Town, The Company Men, and Shutter Island.
The energetic Fighter heads upstate from Boston and unfolds its story mostly in the town of Lowell, home of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother/trainer, former pugilist Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale, once again displaying his uncanny ability to lose a drastic amount of weight and look like hell). Much of the story involves Ward's struggle to make something of his career and wrest himself free of his crazy family, namely his crack addict brother and overbearing mother (a nice turn by Melissa Leo).
Lots of rich local color in this working class drama, with Amy Adams rounding out the principal cast as Ward's girlfriend, who sees great success for him as long as he distances himself from his poisonous family.
The final act almost unfortunately ends up in standard boxing movie territory, with Ward facing his big make-it-or-break-it bout, whereas the meat of the film lies in his ongoing conflict with his bullying family. (His seven – seven! – nightmarish sisters only add to The Fighter's eccentric charms.) It's an exciting, crowd-pleasing conclusion, but it shrugs off the troubles within the Ward/Eklund family that drive the rest of the movie. It's only a small misstep, though, in an otherwise terrific film. Bale and Leo are particularly excellent; their roles may be showy, but their work is truthful.
One note: I'm glad I knew nothing about Micky Ward going into this movie, so I had no idea if he became a champion boxer or remained in Palookaville. If you are ignorant of the Ward saga, don't do any homework before watching The Fighter. If you already know what happened to Ward and his brother, you should still have a good time, even if there's a little less suspense for you.