Lots of heart along with cuts and bruises

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Fighter” is a contender, an Oscar contender. If you ever, ever doubted Christian Bale’s acting chops, get yourself to a cinema and be prepared to gape.

 “The Fighter” (based on a true Boston boxing story) could be either Dicky (Christian Bale), a one-hit (literally) wonder, now washed up and addicted to crack, or his brother Mickey (Mark Wahlberg). Bale totally nails the charmer and wiseguy attitude, including the Boston accent and mumblingand- talking-in-bunches, which isn’t easy to do.

The entire cast gets it, too. Amy Adams, as Mickey’s girlfriend Charlene, latches on to the immediate, inyour- face, rapid-fire, Boston-speak. Amy plays against type here as a lovely toughie who could probably hold her own in the ring, and is firmly in Mickey’s corner, even against his family. Melissa Leo — as you’ve never seen her before — plays the boxers’ scheming manager mom.

Dicky has always coached Mickey, but Mickey’s career is going nowhere and Dicky’s addiction is becoming a liability. Will Mickey stick with family or take advantage of other opportunities? This is the deceptively simple choice Mickey has throughout the movie.

 “The Fighter” has miles and miles of heart. You almost want to be part of this crazy, brawling, dysfunctional family that sticks together like glue.

 “The Fighter” is rated R for “language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.” The instances of the “F” word are certainly pervasive and it’s used constantly both as an expletive and a verb, but the drug abuse is an object lesson, and “sexuality”? We see Charlene in her underwear, there’s implied sex between her and Mickey, and off-screen oral sex performed on a john by a prostitute in a car.

The violence is not excessive or glorified — it’s just what this family does, almost matter of fact — but the punches during the fights are audio-enhanced to sound like oil drums thudding around inside a cement mixer.

God, prayer and religion are natural and interwoven like they really are in the lives of people of faith. Children are ever-present, and although they don’t have many speaking parts, they are important, precious members of the family who count, and around whom important decisions are made.

This story never lets you go, there are no lags, only plenty of Oscar scenes, moments and performances, without them posturing to be “memorable.” Definitely a feel good movie (after the bruises and cuts heal) about wanting to make your mark in life, and doing it for your family and the place on the map you call home.