THE FIGHTER

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg.

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg.

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(15) 115mins

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo

INEVITABLY this movie has been compared to Rocky - well, they are both about boxing and that’s about it.

I never did like Rocky but I was absorbed by The Fighter from start to finish.

This film has some terrific performances from Wahlberg and Bale, but also Melissa Leo as the domineering mum.

It’s the characters that hold the movie together rather than the fight sequences which, in truth, are OK but not 100 per cent convincing.

Actors can do their very best but it’s impossible for them to step in a ring and pretend to be professional fighters battling against someone intent on knocking them out.

The moves are there and you can act out the emotions but if it was that easy to look the part conincingly then we’d be awash with boxing talent.

The storyline follows brothers Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Bale). Ward is on the way up in the boxing world and Eklund has had his moment but now spends his time in a haze of drugs.

Ward is managed by his mum who means well but makes some bad career decisions for her son.

Will Micky overcome adversity and family conflicts to win through? Well, you’ve probably guessed the answer but that doesn’t mean you’re not hooked.

Amy Adams plays the love interest with plenty of intensity, but even the smaller roles, such as Ward’s various sisters, are excellent.

This isn’t about characters from middle America who’ve had a college education - they are rough around the edges but believe in the family unit.

Bale is being held up as an Oscar winner for his ‘supporting’ role and I can’t see any reason why he won’t be going home with a gold statue come the end of the month.

Ward may be the central character but Eklund is the catalyst that sets off the various storylines.

One tip, though. Don’t rush off when the credits roll as the real Ward and Eklund make an appearance and you realise just how well the actors nailed their characters.

four out of five stars

Steve Payne