Film Review: THE FIGHTER

Directed by David O Russell
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams
Release: December 2010
114 minutes

It’s all about the acting. A number of movies this year have shared this trait. And unfortunately Mark Wahlberg is left out of the ensemble that makes this movie click.

Probably the boxer, Micky Ward, was the flattened out, passive character Wahlberg plays. Certainly he seems to such a person in scenes at the end of the film with the real boxer in them. Bale completely captured his brother. But Wahlberg’s performance is growing tired. When did Wahlberg light up the screen. When did he surprise or excite us. Should an actor be satisfied with playing third fiddle for an entire career?

PLOT: Micky Ward (Walhberg), a welter weight boxer, comes from a family with a mercilenss mother (Melissa Leo) cast in stone, seven loud-mouthed sisters and a brother (Bale) who’s lost his chance at a title and seems determined to deal his brother a similar fate. Barmaid (Amy Adams) comes into his life and takes on his mother and family in an attempt to broker his future. Based on a true story, Ward’s fight occurs both in the ring and in his home.

Although boxing scenes abound, this movie is more about family dynamics than the boxing ring. It is hard to over praise the performances of Bale, Leo and Adams. They dominate every scene they are in as do the women who play Micky’s sisters. But the final twenty minutes rest on Micky’s shoulders and I found them as flat as Wahlberg’s performance. Shouldn’t a movie about a specific person demand that person provide some nuance. Maybe not. Perhaps the people around Ward (Wahlberg) give the movie what it needs. A good movie but not a great one.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.