Like the mobster lifestyle in The Godfather, boxing merely sets the backdrop for one of the most moving family tales of modern cinema.
The Fighter tells the true story of an ageing boxer, “Irish” Micky Ward (Wahlberg), as he struggles to make a name for himself in the boxing world, and fights for the respect of family and his hometown Lowell.
In the ring, the mismanagement of his mother, Alice (Leo), and brother Dicky (Bale), sees him slip further and further away from achieving his goal of becoming world champion. Outside the ring, he faces a greater task, as he fights to outgrow his brother's shadow.
It is however, a shadow created only by Dicky's ego and his mother’s deluded sense of admiration for him. Dicky had been a contender for the world championship, scoring a questionable knockdown on boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, and ever since, has regarded himself as the “Pride of Lowell”, despite becoming a degenerate crack head.
Even when training his brother, Dicky steals the spotlight; pandering to a camera which he has deluded himself into thinking is filming his comeback (instead they are making a documentary on crack addiction). Dicky isn't all bad though, while he is undeniably self-absorbed, it's also impossible to deny his love for his brother. He's just incapable of expressing it correctly; he lands himself in jail for extorting people while trying to raise money to help his brother's career.
Micky's girlfriend, Charlene (Adams), is the only light in his life; she helps him find the courage to stand up to his mother and brother. She conspires with Micky's father to find him a new manager and trainer, and his career begins to flourish.
However, when Dicky gets out of jail, Micky finds himself becoming the rope in a game of tug-of-war; on one side his girlfriend, the other his family. It eventually falls on Dicky to swallow his pride, so they can all find a middle ground to work with. With friends and family behind him, Micky can challenge for the title.
Few screenplays are as real as The Fighter's, this is how it avoids becoming just another tacky Cinderella story. From the gritty dialogue, to the emotion it conveys, and surprisingly the humour that permeates the movie, The Fighter is among the best DVD releases of 2011.
The Fighter is released on DVD in Ireland on June 20.