Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a real life prizefighter back in the 1980s who had dreams of becoming a champion.  The life of a professional boxer is grueling; and for Wahlberg, it is made worse by a washed-out, boxer brother (played by Christian Bale) who is addicted to crack, and a mother/manager who sometimes doesn’t have Wahlberg’s best interests in mind.  Enter Amy Adams, who plays Wahlberg’s new girlfriend, and persona non grata to Wahlberg’s mother and cadre of sisters, further adding more unwanted drama and distractions to Wahlberg.  Adams seems to be one of the few straight arrows that can steer Wahlberg toward his dream of becoming a champion; but his family is always close by, threatening to destroy everything that Wahlberg has worked hard for.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Fighter” is the scene when Bale is being arrested and beaten after impersonating a police officer, robbing people, and assaulting police officers.  Wahlberg intervenes, and he is held down and his left hand is deliberately broken by a cop; and then he’s arrested.  Ouch.

The runner-up for my memorable moments of this movie is a scene when Wahlberg is on his first date with Adams.  After they walk out of the movie theater, Adams asks why Wahlberg would take her to a movie that he clearly wasn’t interested in, and in a town where no one knew them.  Is there a wife or girlfriend he’s hiding?  Wahlberg quietly tells Adams that he told everyone in their hometown he would win the boxing match he had a few days ago.  Tired of letting his family and friends down, and obviously embarrassed, Wahlberg just wanted to avoid facing those people.  This is the moment when I wanted this guy to win.  I’ve been down like that a few times, so that scene got to me.

Amazing performances by Bale and Adams, and another good showing for Wahlberg, help make “The Fighter” a must see for boxing movie fans.  There are many elements here that many viewers can relate to: a loving but dysfunctional family; the bond between brothers; addiction; working hard to make something meaningful out of one’s life; and finding love and letting that love make you a better and stronger person.  Congratulations to director David O. Russell for another outstanding job.

— M