Director: David O Russell, Release date: 4 February
If you are like me, and are put off by the thought of watching two men exchange blows to the head for a couple of hours, then oddly this film may change your mind. The story is based on the life of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his fallen from grace half-brother Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale), two road workers from working class Lowell, Massachusetts.
Bale, having played such straight-faced roles as Bruce Wayne in the recent incarnations of Batman, works his role - to much surprise - extremely well as cocky rogue Eklund. Aside from giving the film a gritty bite, Bale also acts as the comic relief, appearing as a conjunction of Rocky's Apollo Creed and Peep Show's Super Hans. Wahlberg, without a doubt, plays a brilliant part as Micky. Having a similar upbringing to the real-life Micky Ward, growing up in a poor working class area, getting involved with hard drugs from an early age and being part of a large, close family unit, it is easy to see why he was chosen by director David O Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) for this role. Wahlberg once claimed that going to prison changed his life for the better, a moment directly reflected by Bale's character at one point in the film.
The story follows the journey of Micky in his attempts to do what his older brother could not and win the welterweight title. The thing that really makes this different from other boxing underdog films is that the characters are actually quite likeable. By the end you really are cheering for your guy in the corner. Although the film sticks rather narrowly to the boxing genre mould (complete with both training and rehabilitation montages) it is very enjoyable.
Wahlberg's character is aware that to earn any kind of money to look after his daughter he has to utilise his "god given" talents, which unfortunately for him involves getting beaten up by burly thugs. His family - especially his mother - also put a lot of pressure on him to fill the shoes of his once great brother and step into the ring, regardless of what Micky himself wants.
Micky represents the means to escape from the poverty that the capitalist world has cast upon them. He is torn between his over-protective family, his girlfriend (Amy Adams) and professional trainers promising him the world.
Although the film really took me by surprise by the fact that I actually enjoyed it, and that the message came across quite well, it is hard to create something truly original from such a standard framework. But, without a doubt, The Fighter is one of the best sports dramas around.