Good performances, great supporting cast, terrible pacing and very overlong.
Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is an up and coming fighter being trained by his older brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale.) Dicky is a fighter himself still looking for a comeback, but Micky is the one with the heart and the best shot, a point that doesn’t go unnoticed by Charlene (Amy Adams), a local barmaid with an eye out for Micky. Unfortunately, Dicky also frequents the local crack house and more frequently misses training session with Micky. After a fight goes sour (due to a last-minute replacement) and a fight gets Dicky thrown in jail, Micky decides not to go on with Dicky’s management, sticking instead with his own management and Charlene’s encouragement. And then Micky started winning…
Somewhere in this overlong, overcomplicated story is something about an up and coming fighter getting a shot. Mark Wahlberg’s Micky, however, is so overshadowed by Christian Bale’s transformation and performance as Dicky you might mistake him for the main character. Likewise, Amy Adams morphs again into yet another character that seems completely real, but the small town “trash” mentality coupled with a meandering plot makes it all feel pointless, which is sad because a tighter script, real edits, and a more subtle performance from Bale might have made this work.
Just like over-singing a song (just ask Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey), you can overact a character, but is it really fair to accuse Christian Bale of overacting because the guy playing the main character didn’t keep up? Looking like Matthew McConaughey on heroin with accent to boot, Bale’s Dickie is an addict with ADD that charges forward at full speed until he crashes, then he wakes up and starts all over again. At some point or another, the director should have asked Bale to turn it down or ask Mr. Wahlberg to step it up; it’s one thing when a character is dominated by another, but this shouldn’t be happening at the acting level. It’s so one-sided, you almost forget Wahlberg is even part of the production when Bale is on screen.
The core story is about a family with a tradition of fighting taking a shot at more than just local fame. They’re not rich and they’re not geniuses, but they do have the hearts of fighters and never back down, even when they rightly should. It barely registers as significant that it’s Wahlberg’s Micky who finally comes to understand this and resolves the film’s conflict by bringing family new and old back into the fold (because even then Bale continues to steal the spotlight.) While you can’t fault a great method actor for bringing his A-game, someone should have noticed earlier on that the end result was a going to be “The Bale Show.”
(a two skull recommendation out of four)