Boxing is the backdrop of many movies. From "Rocky" to "The Champ," the concept of one man standing toe to toe with another becomes the metaphor for many a story.
"The Fighter" does this – and more. It deals with issues greater than a man battling another man.
This is a movie about the mess that can be family. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a fighter from Lowell, Mass. He happens to be the second most famous fighter from that town. The first is his brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale).
The story is that Dicky once knocked Sugar Ray Leonard down in a fight. It could have been a slip, but Dicky always says it was a knock-down.
Dicky is Micky's trainer. He's also a crack addict who's always found in the trash out back of the local crack house.
Micky's manager is his mother (Melissa Leo). She's really not worthy or savvy enough to be a manager, but blood is thicker than water. Her style of management is to get Micky in fights for low-end money and then enjoy the perks of a fight – while her son is beaten unmercifully in the ring.
Into Micky's life comes Charlene (Amy Adams). Charlene sees the mess that is Micky's career. She points out what is happening and urges him to get away from the mother and brother who leech on his life.
Dicky manages to get arrested and thrown in prison, which forces Micky to find others to aid his career. But while in prison, Dicky has a moment of clarity. It moves him to his knees in prayer. Seeing this penitent man fall on his face is one of the most powerful moments in film of this year.
But is it too late? Will his call for help be enough to gain the trust of his brother, who has moved on?
"The Fighter" has some wonderful performances. Leo as the mother is just marvelous, but Bale steals the movie in a spot-on performance. His acting is effortless, yet powerful.
"The Fighter" takes boxing as its subject and uses it to say something about drug use and the pain it inflicts on families. Some would call drug use a victimless crime, but this movie clearly suggests otherwise.
We watch a man throw a life away – and how redemption is possible.
This movie will be around at Oscar time. It is a powerful story worthy of any accolades it may get. I enjoyed every minute.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, drug content, some violence and sexuality.
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg: Micky Ward; Christian Bale: Dicky Eklund; Melissa Leo: Alice Ward; Amy Adams: Charlene Fleming; Jack McGee: George Ward.