The film is based on the true story of Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg), a boxer from Lowell, Mass. Micky's older brother, Dickie (Christian Bale), had once been a promising up-and-coming boxer, but he blew his chances, became addicted to crack and he is Micky's trainer. Their mother (Melissa Leo) manages Micky.
It quickly becomes apparent that although the family is now relying on Micky's talents as a boxer, they don't have his best interests at heart. He is sent into unfair fights simply to get paid (not win) and his chance at an actual boxing career is slipping away. Then he meets Charlene, a bartender and college drop out. Unlike Dickie, she puts Micky's career first and starts to help him distance himself from his family professionally (although one has to wonder if part of that dedication was due to what she might get out of it if Micky made it big). Only when Dickie's last-chance-scheme to stay on as Micky's trainer lands Dickie in prison and ends with a broken hand for Micky, is Micky finally able to break the cycle with his family and concentrate on his training and career.
I'm really not a boxing fan, but the film centers on the drama and conflict in the relationships and the few fights that are included are done well.
Christian Bale is brilliant. While he should have already been up for an Oscar for American Psycho and Rescue Dawn (at least), I'm sincerely hoping he gets nominated for this part. (Whether or not that will happen, since he refuses to campaign, remains to be seen.) But his portrayal of Dickie is remarkable and reconfirms Bale as one of the best, most chameleonic actors working today.
All of the other actors are very good - particularly Melissa Leo who, as Micky's mother, is incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking. The film was surprisingly funny in parts (well, perhaps not, considering it is directed by David O. Russell) and, as I saw it with an *unbelievably* boisterous Boston audience, they certainly responded overwhelmingly to those bits.
I also loved the soundtrack, although I know other reviews have critiqued it for being too modern.
It also seemed like several types of film or differing styles of cinematography were used for different scenes, particularly the matches, and I thought that worked well.
It's not my favorite film of the year. Although I thought Mark Wahlberg did a good job, Micky is a quiet and retiring hero for a film to focus on and the underdog sports achiever plot is predictable (if uplifting).
Really, Christian Bale steals the show as a harrowing portrait of a crack addict trying to do the right thing. I hope he gets all the recognition he deserves for it.
5 out of 5 stars