In small-town 1993 Massachusetts, Dickie (Bale) is a crack addict who lives in his own glorious past as a boxer who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard. But his erratic life is jeopardising the growing career of his half-brother Micky (Wahlberg), who he's training and managing with their tough-as-nails mother (Leo). Micky knows that in order to further his career, he'll need to make a difficult break from his messy family. Then he meets Charlene (Adams), a barmaid who encourages him to go for it. And of course they see her as the villain.
True stories don't come much more rousing than this one, and Russell thankfully avoids sentiment from start to finish, centring instead on the gritty interaction between people who all feel that they have a vested interest in Micky's career. These are all jagged, tough, salt-of-the-earth characters, and the film's real point of engagement is in watching Micky struggle with how to take control of his own future.
Wahlberg is superb in the role, combining his tough-guy physicality with an inner soulfulness that lets us travel with him on this journey. While the romantic element is somewhat underplayed, Adams provides rock-solid support as a woman who, like Dickie, has seen her dreams fall apart. Meanwhile, Bale and Leo are kinetic and more than a bit scary as they disappear into the film's showiest roles.
Executive produced by Darren Aronofsky, this film continually echoes The Wrestler in both themes and shooting styles. It also packs just as strong a punch, balancing the family commotion with intense internal conflicts plus thrillingly well-staged boxing scenes that manage to get us cheering. With his clever mix of documentary elements, TV-style bout coverage and skilfully edgy editing, Russell has crafted one of the best boxing movies in decades. And a powerfully moving drama about pursuing your dream.
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th December 2010
Box Office USA: $93.6M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 211 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as 'Irish' Mickey Ward, Christian Bale as Donnie Eklund, Amy Adams as Charlene, Melissa Leo as Alice, Dendrie Taylor as Gail 'Red Dog' Eckland Carney, Jack McGee as George Ward, Bianca Hunter as Cathy 'Pork' Eklund, Erica McDermott as Cindy 'Tar' Eklund, Jenna Lamia as Sherri Ward, Caitlin Dwyer as Kasie Ward, Chanty Sok as Karen, Jackson Nicoll as Little Dickie
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