Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett star in director Kasi Lemmons' seasonal drama.
David O Russell directs the based-on-a-true-story tale of a talented boxer (Mark Wahlberg) struggling to emerge from the clingy influence of his overbearing family and realise his true potential
The main reason to see The Fighter is Christian Bale's performance, which you may not enjoy, but from which you will find it hard to tear your eyes. Whether Bale's bug-eyed portrayal of crack-addled Dicky Eklund, former boxer and coach to younger brother Micky (Mark Wahlberg) really gets under your skin or comes across more as an OTT lunge in the direction of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, it's hard to deny that he is ever less than entertaining to watch.
As Micky, Wahlberg has the quieter role, one that won't see him garlanded with superlatives but has the more difficult job of humanising a narrative that follows a rather predictable trajectory. We know we're supposed to root for Micky to break free from the cloying emotional blackmail of his feckless brother and beloved (s)mother, we know we want him to win his eventual big fight, and it's only a shame that we suspect so strongly that this is exactly what will happen.
A slightly more original note is struck by Micky's coven of loathsome sisters, who feel like they've stalked straight in from Macbeth's blasted heath - in a good way. If awards were given to ensembles within ensembles, these gals would deserve all the silverware going. I almost want to see them in their own miniseries, perhaps running a de-motivational speakers workshop where people with too much confidence go to be cut down to size.
In a nutshell: Some say they don't make 'em like this any more. Traditional boxing flick The Fighter proves that sometimes they do, but also demonstrates why progress is a good thing. Predictable, but solid enough.
By Catherine Bray
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