The Fighter ★★★★★
David O Russell’s career – hitherto built on indie oddities – has flourished since he turned it around with this story of the American welterweight boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward in 2010. The Fighter showed he was capable of old-fashioned, warm-hearted film-making, teasing career-best performances from Mark Wahlberg as Micky and Christian Bale as his crackhead half-brother and trainer Dicky. As much a study of step-sibling rivalry and a horribly dysfunctional family as it is of the fight game, it begins in 1993 when Ward’s career is nose-diving. What with Dicky risking prison, a domineering mother (Melissa Leo), and a bunch of hideous sisters, Ward is saved when he meets Charlene (Amy Adams), a tough barmaid who tries to wrest him from the clutches of his awful clan. Beautifully acted, funny and touching, it was Oscar nominations all round and wins for Leo and Bale.
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