Believe the hype: The Fighter is a winner, a rock 'em, sock 'em heavyweight champion of a true-life story chronicling the rise of 'Irish' Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the "Pride of Lowell," and his relationship with his crack addict half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale, in a well-deserved Oscar-winning performance), a former champ who might just have a little fight still left in him. Indeed, the title of this rousing, scrappy drama could refer to every single member of the Eklund/Ward family, a working-class clan of stubborn Irish squabblers -- particularly Alice Ward (Melissa Leo, who also won an Oscar), a fierce and frightening matriarch whose bombastic personality hides a great sadness, most of which comes from standing by seemingly helplessly as her drug-addicted son destroys himself. Even those who didn't take home any awards are at the top of their game here, particularly Wahlberg and Amy Adams as his sexy bartender sweetie. The Fighter deserves every bit of praise it's received and could even stand to receive some more; you better believe it deserves a place next to Rocky and Raging Bull as one of the best boxing dramas of all time.
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