Let the menfolk think The Fighter is a sports movie if that's what gets them to the cinema. It's really a love story, based on real people and events, that uses the boxing ring as its setting.
And, it's not so much a romantic love story, although a cast-against-type Amy Adams does a terrific job as a tough, determined Boston barmaid who helps turn around the fortunes of Mark Wahlberg's Micky Ward, a boxer who wants to follow his locally famous older brother, Dicky, into the ring.
The love story at the heart of this movie is a familial one. It's about the love half-brothers Micky and the ne'er do-well Dicky (a perfect, twitchy Christian Bale) have for each other. It's about the tough love their mom (the formidable Melissa Leo) rains down on her brood. The family doesn't always do right by each other, but they mean well. Including the hilarious Greek chorus of interchangeable sisters. How many of them are there -- four? five? seven? Who can tell? They move -- and talk -- as a group and don't seem to do much of anything besides bitch, judge and smoke. They provide much-needed comic relief amid all the fighting -- inside and outside the ring.
Dicky, Micky's brother and trainer, is forever yammering about his comeback. He relives his glory days often, egged on by the neighbors and shopkeepers in his gritty Boston suburb who treat him like the royalty he once was. HBO camera crews are always close by, since they're filming a movie about the comeback he swears is imminent.
Dicky seems to fail at everything -- including his job as his kid brother's trainer. So, Micky has to ponder the unthinkable -- firing his trainer brother and manager mother -- if he is to ever succeed as a boxer. With the love of a good woman, he just may be able to do it.
The biggest knockout punch of the movie comes, not from the fighting, but from the discovery of the real topic of the HBO documentary.
All the lead actors -- Wahlberg, Adams and especially Leo and Bale -- bring their best to this venture and will likely be remembered with Oscar nominations. The Fighter is gritty, brutal, honest and sweet. See it.