Greetings again from the darkness. Don’t let the hype or the fear of just another “boxing” movie keep you from this one. Yes, it is based on the true story of “Irish” Micky Ward, a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, but this is every bit as much a story of family and commitment and tenacity as any story you know.
Directed by David O Russell (I Heart Huckabees), the film does a terrific job of dumping us right smack into this blue collar community and this oh-so-colorful family. Mark Wahlberg stars as Micky Ward, the younger brother of former boxer Dicky Ecklund (a no-holds-barred Christian Bale). Ecklund’s reputation lived for years off his fight against Sugar Ray Leonard, where Leonard either was knocked down or slipped down. Either way, Dicky is as close to a local legend as it gets. In the mid-80’s, younger brother Micky joined the fight game – with Dicky as his trainer and his mother (Melissa Leo) as his manager.
As realistic and believable as the boxing is in the film, the real trick was in presenting Micky’s family. The first impression of his mother and gaggle of sisters is that it’s a cartoonish presentation. In fact, it’s a very realistic portrayal! When local bartender Charlene (Amy Adams)becomes involved with Micky, she tries to set him straight on exactly what his family is doing to his career.
Oh, did I mention that Dicky was a crackhead? Did I mention that his mother pushed him into fights against upper weight classes because she needed the money? Did I mention that Micky tries to remain loyal to the family … even to the extent of nearly costing him a shot at a legitimate career? There are some real emotions going on all over this well-paced film. Thanks to the Amy Adams character, we really get to see how an “outsider” views the family, and vice versa. It’s not a pretty sight!
I can’t say enough about Bale’s performance as Dicky. He has the movement and gait of both a boxer and a crackhead. His mannerisms mirror that of the real Dicky, as seen over the ending credits. This is crazy good acting. Melissa Leo is fast becoming the hardest working actress in Hollywood. This is the third film I have seen her in this year! Her performance, when combined with Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom, really generates terror for any kids with creepy mothers! Amy Adams is totally convincing as the pretty, tough love interest and guiding light for Micky. As for Wahlberg, he is quite convincing as a boxer. His physicality is without question. The only thing I didn’t like was the couple of times he slipped back into his mumbling, whiny persona. Luckily that effect was minimal.
This is a film I would recommend to most. The only word of caution is the language is quite realistic for working class Lowell, Mass. In other words, the “F” word is utilized in every conceivable manner throughout. It’s just part of the community fabric. Also, be warned that the boxing is also quite realistic … it’s a violent sport and that comes across very well. I loved how the boxing matches were filmed digitally for effect. Just a wonderfully well made film with terrific performances … and actually quite uplifting!
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy uplifting films based on a true story OR you have always wanted to see someone punch Marky Mark in the face
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: the overuse of the “F” word with a Massachusetts accent gives you nightmares OR those nightmares intensify when you see Christian Bale after a 40 lb weight loss