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Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'The Fighter'

December 15, 2010 |  4:30 pm

Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter With a brother and seven sisters like these, a bruiser of a mom and a girlfriend who doesn’t walk away from a smackdown, there’s a reason that Mark Wahlberg’s boxer, Micky Ward, is the quiet one.

Few words, it’s true, but what a force Wahlberg is in filmmaker David O. Russell’s excellent cut at fighting and family and fighting families in “The Fighter," which has turned into a serious contender in this year's award race.

The rounds in the ring are brutal, but the real action is outside. Christian Bale, as Micky’s older brother, a failed fighter turned crack addict; Melissa Leo as Micky’s tough manager first, mom second; the seven sisters chiming in like the harpies from hell, are technically all in Micky’s corner.

Leo is hard as the acrylic nails she’s sporting, and Bale is terrifyingly funny as a gaunt-twitchy Dicky who can never quite get beyond his tendency to hit below the belt, even with his own brother. Amy Adams is terrific playing against type as the tough chick in love with Micky, willing to face down the family.

But none of it would work without Wahlberg’s quiet center — he is the eye of this hurricane. With all those flailing fists around him, Wahlberg lands the one punch that makes the difference. It's a knockout.

— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward in "The Fighter." Credit: Jojo Whilden.