Sometimes a movie will send you to the floor as if you had been hit with a full-on left hook. Your head spins for a second while your senses slowly return, and the world seems altered. Exactly such a stroke is Russell’s film about Micky Ward, a boxer struggling against more than punches.
Trapped in a female-dominated family (Melissa Leo’s permed, chain-smoking mother is unforgettable, as are the sisters, looking like pouchy sausages with big hair), Micky is on a road to nowhere and constantly in the smothering shadow of his crack-addict big brother, Dicky. Dicky was once the ‘Pride of Lowell’ but is now the never-present trainer of his little brother. How can Micky turn his life around without cutting a few strings from the tight and very damaging bond he shares with his brother?
Although Wahlberg is great as the soft and taunted Micky, the punch that sends you to the floor is without a doubt Bale. As soon as he enters the frame as the dynamic Dicky, walking down the streets of Lowell with a wide grin, talking constantly and teasing his brother, he takes over the whole screen. His desperate eyes are haunting, and although the whole cast does a magnificent job, pain-in-the-ass Dicky is the one you can’t take your eyes off, the one you want to follow all the way to the mat.
THE FIGHTER | Directed by David O. Russel (USA 2010) with Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale. Opens April 7