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‘The Fighter’ gives a new, bloody face to the underdog boxer

“Irish” Micky Ward is a stepping stone. The younger brother of Dicky Eklund, the Pride of Lowell, Mass. He sits at the

end of the table, away from his seven sisters who joke about their paternity with their chain-smoking, bleached-blonde mother.

While Micky’s training at the gym, Dicky’s spending time in a crack house as HBO cameramen record him for a documentary on crack addiction. Dicky went toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978, only to lose by unanimous decision. Now he’s a mess.

“The Fighter” puts everything on the line as an underdog tale strengthened by the genuine human urge to break away from dysfunction. As Micky Ward loses fight after fight, he realizes he’s got to switch up his game in order to have some forward momentum. The film is powerful, with boxing fights that are visceral and exhilarating and the HBO fight-night camera work help bring authenticity to the brutal sport. The film’s powerful right hook is the ensemble cast.

Mark Wahlberg takes a beating as “Irish” Micky Ward, but he does it with a smirk on his face, along with several bloody bandages. Wahlberg has more than made up for the 2008 double disaster of “The Happening” and “Max Payne,” by delving into the psyche of a submissive fighter sick of getting his ass kicked. Wahlberg’s in top physical shape for this film and continues to surprise audience members.

Christian Bale’s performance bolsters a new feat for Bale. No stranger to weight loss for roles, Bale lost 30 pounds to properly portray Micky’s crack-addled brother/trainer, Dicky. Bale channels Dicky Ward’s rhythm and persona in a way that will most definitely earn him a Golden Globe and most likely an Oscar. Bale is electrifying and continues to show us his passion and dedication for the craft of acting.

While buzz has consistently surrounded Bale’s performance, Amy Adams truly shines right next to Bale in a film that stretches their variability as actors. Adams plays Charlene, Micky Ward’s bartender love interest, a spitfire bartender with a sharp tongue and a deadly commitment to protecting her man. Adams truly breaks her mold of playing glitter princesses and inept nuns as she cusses out the ragamuffin Ward sisters in knockdown fights outside the ring. Call her a “MTV girl” or a “Skank” and she’ll rip your hair out. It’s entertainment gold to see her bicker over Micky’s career decisions with the bitchy matriarch, Alice – performed frenetically by Melissa Leo.

With six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and two Best Supporting Actress nominations, “The Fighter” stands a good chance at getting the gold during the upcoming award season.

“The Fighter” shows us a real-life Rocky story as “Irish” Mickey Ward fights in desperation for a chance to move out of the shadows of his brother and make his own name mean something when people hear it. Boxing dramas like “Rocky” and “Million Dollar Baby” are great tales of triumph, but “The Fighter” has a true-story drive that will have you cheering with each victory.

It’s the movie to see this holiday. Hop in Micky’s corner and watch as he knocks your teeth out.

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