During Thanksgiving we all expect and presume there will be turkey, but what we really enjoy are the various side dishes because it’s not every day that you get stuffing or broccoli casserole. Oscar nominated actor Mark Wahlberg teams up with director David Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees) for a third time now, turning out another good performance. However, in The Fighter it is the supporting cast Christian Bale and Oscar nominee Melissa Leo that steal the show. Russell has directed Wahlberg in three extremely different genres of film which truly showcases his range. The Fighter is perhaps his least complex but the most powerful; most of that is because it’s an actor’s film.

  Always enduring the attention seeking older brother, Mickey Ward (Wahlberg) decides once and for all to distance himself from his former boxing brother Dicky (Bale) who is now so hooked on drugs that only jail can separate him from the addiction. The Ward family is known for their white trash ways; even their bleach blond, fire spitting mother Alice (Leo) insists on managing every aspect of the boys' lives. Taking a step away from the chaos he calls his family, Mickey finally gets a shot at a fighting career instead of always being lumped in with his circus of a family.

Produced by Wahlberg, who was a childhood fan of Mickey Ward, the dedication all around this film demonstrates some of the year’s best performances. It’s a true ensemble piece because there are few scenes where we don’t see at least half the cast in the frame. Wahlberg’s straighter edge Mickey is highly contrasted by Leo’s performance that picks up on key mannerisms to make us believe this is a real character instead of a Jerry Springer guest. Leo’s previous Oscar nominated work in Frozen River, as well as her brief portrayal of a nasty cop in Conviction all seemed to be leading her towards this defining role. Even more impressive is The Dark Knight himself, the man who has no limits when it comes to altering his physical appearance for a role. Bale has long been the only actor in the Batman cast without awards recognition, but his time and the right role has finally come; this is Bale’s movie.  His role is unforgettable and he will stand at that podium come Oscar time.

I discounted two time Oscar nominee Amy Adams Golden Globe nomination, but after that sassy scene where her character meets the family for the first time and that unforgettable front porch brawl, she is as good as she has ever been. The film might have the illusion of centering on boxing, but it’s really about the love of two brothers and an entire family. Boxing films have always been great acting vehicles and The Fighter follows that tradition.  Like the great ones, it manages to make be original and surprises us one more time. Russell deserves credit as well for showing restraint like we have never seen from him before, The Fighter is solid, emotional, and one of the year’s best.

  Final Thought – A fantastic feast of performances sure to take home Oscar gold.

Grade A-

By: Dustin Chase W.

Editor: Michael B. Woody