When I first heard about this movie I was really excited. I'm a well known Mark Wahlberg apologist but this movie actually appeared to be good. I had the hopes that all of the acting talent in the movie would push it past the average sports movie cliches. I'm not entirely sure that it did. I'm not even sure it's much better than the last sports movie that Wahlberg did, Invincible. I know that it was a Disney movie and by it's very nature (Disney plus sports movie) it should be schmaltzy and uplifting but I thought it was pretty good. And The Fighter is really no less schmaltzy and uplifting. It just has better performances. Although there was a lot of "acting."
A lot of people are hailing Christian Bale's performance as remarkable. I couldn't get past the fact that I was watching him act. I just felt like I was watching Christian Bale play Dicky Eklund and not simply Dicky Eklund on the screen. I suppose he is pretty good but I thought it was a little over the top. It was Melissa Leo who really acted the shit out of her role. She was amazing as their mother. It was a comparable performance to the one she delivered in Frozen River. Amy Adams was good too. She has a bigger range than I think she has shown us and I bet she's an Oscar winner before too long. But most of the movie rests on Wahlberg's shoulders. He handles it well enough. He actually looks like a boxer. The role doesn't offer him too much to work with but he does it capably.
The highlights of the movie were definitely the boxing scenes. They are the most realistic I've seen in a movie. The Raging Bull and Killer's Kiss scenes were more stylized and probably better but these felt more like a boxing match. And Wahlberg looks like he can actually box. I remember the fight at the end of the movie where he wins the belt (no surprise even if you aren't a boxing fan) and it was a good replication. After watching this movie I started thinking about Rocky and my theory that the only reason anyone really likes the movie is because he loses in the end. Sylvester Stallone's whole career is based on that decision. Good move, Sly. Except now we're the ones suffering.