The most notable thing about ‘The Fighter’ is its extreme and at times offputting diversity of acting styles: Wahlberg holds himself back as the quiet man at the eye of the storm, but Bale’s twitchy, tweaked-out crackhead is as out-there a character as he’s ever portrayed, while both Leo and Amy Adams are on full scenery-chewing form as the sharp-tongued, mad-haired, leopard-print-clad women who rule Mickey’s life. Director David O Russell (‘Three Kings’) does a decent job of holding things together, but some scenes feel more like a thespian pissing contest than a representation of anything like ‘real life’, a situation not helped by some of the more laboured, class-conscious Barton Fink-isms in the script.
But ‘The Fighter’ is still a hugely entertaining watch, romping through its rags-to-slightly-better-rags plot with aplomb, throwing in a few brief but breathless boxing sequences, some superbly sketched (and terrifyingly dressed) supporting characters and a lot of snappy, street-smart dialogue. Russell’s visual sense is as strong as ever, creating a vivid, heightened portrait of ground-level life in what was then one of America’s roughest neighbourhoods. The result is a flawed, frequently ludicrous but overwhelmingly likeable film, old-school to the core and none the worse for it.