Blu-Ray Review: The Fighter

At the heart of The Fighter's plot is Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a scrappy boxer from the rough streets of Lowell, Mass. whose true story David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated film is based on. His ring strategy essentially amounts to tiring out his opponent (by wearing out their fists on his face) and then landing a winning blow. His hero is his brother/trainer, Dicky (Christian Bale), a boxer whose claim to fame is allegedly knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard. Then Dicky became a drug addict and the baggy-panted, skeletal son that dives out of a window into a dumpster so his mother doesn't catch him shooting up again with his junkie posse. He and Micky are being filmed for an HBO documentary he thinks is about his comeback, but everyone else knows is about his descent from fame (albeit brief) into addiction. But Dicky's just the beginning of Ward's sometimes hilariously dysfunctional brood. Ward matriarch Alice (Melissa Leo) rules the family and Micky's career -- she's the kind of poofy-coiffed, hard-jawed, chain-smoker you don't want to mess with. Her seven big-haired, loud-mouthed daughters, on the other hand, are all trash talk. Which is what Micky's bartender love Charlene (Amy Adams) hilariously discovers, when she verbally throws down with them over Micky.

They, along with Alice, hate her for trying convince Micky that his family is a problem. After a bout of bad matchups leave Micky defeated physically and mentally, he gets an offer he shouldn't refuse -- to train in Vegas with a big-time promoter. Alice, who seems to have always favored Dicky, is against anything that gets Micky out from under her and Dicky's thumb. Charlene is for it, leaving Micky in the midst of their brawl.

The Fighter is an underdog success story that doesn't really pull any surprise punches. There are two things that elevate it from good to great -- Melissa Leo and Christian Bale, both of whom earned Oscars for their roles. Wahlberg may account for the heart of the plot, but Leo and Bale are the heart of the movie -- Leo's flinty take on the family dictator, and Bale's incredibly convincing transformation into Dicky Ward in decline. The pair, along with a spot-on supporting performance by Adams, are reason enough to see an otherwise ultimately forgettable, albeit entertaining film.

Special features:

Along with the requisite commentary by director David O. Russell, extras include "Keeping the Faith," a brief series of interviews with Ward family and friends discussing how their boxing legacy began with Micky's uncles, and Dicky's unfulfilled potential. "The Warrior's Code: Filming The Fighter," takes an in-depth look at the making of the movie, from getting the story rights to casting and working with the Ward family on set. Interviews with Micky's family on location in Lowell illustrate how involved they were with the movie, and their opinions on it and the actors who portrayed them -- an insightful peek into the family behind the film. Dicky's sisters even marvel at how they frequently mistook Bale for their brother. Of course, there's plenty of praise for Wahlberg's authenticity as a kid who came from the same streets, and his extensive boxing training for the film. (Though, honestly, when has Wahlberg not looked like a boxer?) There are also a few discarded deleted scenes goodies. For example: a trippy clip of Dicky musing on why he gets high, or a sister lineup that spells out their nicknames -- Red Dog, Tar, Pork, Beaver, and so forth.

The Fighter is available now on Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures.