Wahlberg lands a KO…

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo & Mickey O’Keefe

Directed by: David O. Russell

Screenplay by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson

Plot: 

Micky Ward (Wahlberg) has aspirations to become a boxing champ but before he can, he must overcome his equally well-meaning and destructive family first.

Verdict:

Originally meant as a directional project for Darren Aronofsky with the likes of Brad Pitt and Matt  Damon pencilled in to star, The Fighter’s eventual completion with Three Kings director David O. Russell behind the camera and Mark Wahlberg in the leading role with Christian Bale for support, has indeed been a long time coming but thankfully its been worth the wait.

Wahlberg was always interested in the role of underdog boxer Micky ‘Irish’ Ward and four years before he even stepped in front of the camera, he began training, met with the real Micky Ward and even built his own boxing ring in his own backyard. Wahlberg’s commitment shines through in the finished product, physically and emotionally. Wahlberg gives a quietly affecting, understated performance that unselfishly allows Bale to fully grasp the fierier role as Ward’s older brother Dickie Eklund, a former boxer who once sent Sugar Ray Leonard to the mat but is now suffering with a crack addiction. And boy does Bale take full advantage, showing plenty of commitment himself by once again shedding the pounds to physically replicate the man he is portraying. But it’s more than just the physical transformation that impresses, Bale’s firework display of manic antics and eventual redemption wins us over with ease and if the Academy don’t finally give him his due with what would be a hard-earned Oscar, it would have to be considered a blatant snub.

Elsewhere, Melissa Leo impresses as Ward’s fearsome mother and Amy Adams once again shows her considerable talent for more dramatic roles as Ward’s strong-minded girlfriend; their relationship wholly convincing.

Despite ticking off the cliches as it goes – underdog boxer endures pain, embarrassment and multiple, physically demanding training sessions on his way to redemption and glory – O. Russell’s film is more about family values and gritty realism. The latter theme stretching to the police sergeant Mickey O’Keefe who helped train Ward appearing in the film as himself, despite having no acting experience whatsoever. The authentic Lowell setting and Boston accents also go some way to help the realistic approach. There are even nice comedic touches. Like Dickie’s escape route from the crack house he regularly visits and pretty much every scene with Ward’s seven hard-ass sisters.

But either way you look at it, not since Stallone’s Rocky has an underdog story been this likable and easy to root for. So by the time Ward completes his journey from chump to champ, you will be punching-the-air in celebration of this inspiring biopic that is powerful enough to land a decisive KO.