3 1/2 Stars
A good solid movie, but like the fighter in the film, it falls short of greatness in the late rounds. A dynamic performance by Christan Bale is the most convincing piece of acting you’ll find in a film this year. He is so mesmerizing that you don’t mind when the film devotes major screen time to his character. In fact Bale is so good at portraying Dickie Eklund, that he overshadows the subtle but effective work from co-star Mark Wahlberg.
The screenplay focus on a six year period in the career and personal life of blue collar boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward, chronicling his vicious battles inside the ring with men much more skilled but lacking his heart and punching power. And his struggles outside the ring with an overbearing mother and a drug addicted brother/trainer.
David O. Russell does a great job delivering a straight-forward narrative, sans any over-the-top directorial flourishes. The film is a richer experience for it. Authentic location shooting and casting of actual residents from Lowell, Mass. only add to the working-man like effort. Wahlberg was born to portray a boxer. A hulking presence on-screen he reportedly trained for years in preparation. Unfortunately the screenplay limits Ward to being a pushover who’s easily manipulated by the people around him. The story is a somewhat scattered affair, it tires under the weight of having to juggle the lives of the four central characters. Fortunately the acting is so effective that you’ll be swept up in the plight of this simple man, fighting for an inch in life.
The film ends without going into detail on the bright side of Ward’s career. He would achieve a world championship title and millions of dollars in a trilogy of bouts against puglistic legend Arturo Gatti. A close friendship between the two men formed after Ward retired, and he even cornered a few fights for Gatti. The men remained in contact until the mysterious death of Gatti in 2009. A story so compelling it should be brought to the screen as a companion piece to this.
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo
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