So if you are like me you would go into this movie thinking, “Oh great, another Oscar Caliber Boxer Biopic, this should be great!” Which may be the best way to go into this movie, because that’s exactly what it is. Only lose the sarcasm.
Story: Micky Ward (Mark Whalberg) struggles between trying to train with his drug addict Brother Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) under the management of his Mother (Melissa Leo) or seek a more professional route. Also, he meets up and makes kissy faces with a Bartender (Amy Adams).
While I am no big fan of Biopics, this movie takes all the hokiness one might expect and delivers a real movie about real people. While I’m sure some events were fabricated and manipulated, at no point does this movie feel fake. The movie sets up Micky Ward immediately as a likable and talented guy in an unlucky situation and small town. Nothing comes easy for him; instead, he must earn everything he wants, even at the cost of turning his back on his family.
The idea of family unity comes through strong. The Mother, the Father, Dicky, and all the Sisters, as annoying and flawed they may be, are a great support and big part of Micky’s life. Even though he has the chance to do something great, he feels he must not turn his back on his family. They want to help him, their biggest flaw is they want to be the ONLY ones to help him, yet they can’t give him everything he needs.
So he ends up turning to local Bartender Charlene, expertly played by Amy Adams as a voice of reason to Micky. She pushes him to do what he won’t, however he also knows that he can’t do it with just her help either.
I don’t want to make it seem like Micky can make no decision of his own, that he is just some manipulated, half-witted goof who only does what he is told by whoever told him last. He is a talented, smart guy desperately trying to balance out the better parts of his life so he can achieve greatness. Also, the script’s pacing may not give in to what audiences want right away in a boxing movie, but like Micky’s Fighting style, it builds up slow then unleashes a barrage of punches before delivering the knockout blow.
I could use this time to state everyone’s name and how great they were in this movie. David O. Russell defnintely knows how to get a good performance out of an actor. Everyone was great. But I want to specifically point out the Sisters. They play a great band of Small Town, Close Knit, Protective, Gossipy, Catty, Trashy Women that never becomes mean or insulting but rather realistic and sincere. While the audience may find certain parts of their characters funny, they never play to that. And because of that there are moments where you feel sad for and with them.
Also… Christian Bale absolutely just destroys the screen. Actors will be studying his performance in this one for years to come. He transforms himself into another human being completely. Never misses a syllable or blink. Nothing about this seems like Bale, it is all Dicky Ecklund. Bale adds a lot to Summer Blockbuster like Batman and Terminator, but that is just child’s play to what he does here.
In the end, this introspective look on Micky Ward’s struggle to the top highlights the lowest of the lows before making any Chance of Champion visible. Its the kind of movie that leaves you feeling uplifted, but never lets you feel the strings that are doing the lifting.
Final Grade: A