Despite not being a fan of boxing, I've always been a keen viewer of films that focus on the sport. As a genre, I find boxing films tend to be very 'edge of your seat' viewing and often have a great back story for the key characters - traits I can't help but appreciate.
This film is no different. The scenes of "Irish" Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, in the ring are made of serious stuff. Yet, the tension is really in the interaction of Micky and his family.
Christian Bale shines in his role as Micky's older step-brother, Dicky Eklund. A boxer who lives off the memory of a night when he floored titleholder Sugar Ray Leonard, years later he is a drug addict, a womaniser and Micky's coach. He fails to turn up for training, persuades Micky to participate in unevenly matched and dangerous fights and along with Micky's mother Alice, played by Melissa Leo, is gradually destroying Micky's boxing career. Cue Charlene (Amy Adams), a spirited barmaid who believes she can free Micky of his family's control, giving him a chance to prove his real talent.
Though some critics suggest Bale's performance is so loud it verges on the side of grotesque, I feel it was a brave and almost pitch-perfect attempt. Bale does not shy away from the task of honestly portraying Dicky's awfully embarrassing actions, nor does he attempt to sentimentalise or justify them, despite how uncomfortable this may make the audience. Wahlberg's Micky, is also excellent, though a very quiet performance in comparison.
Though usually I dislike films shot in a documentary style (I tend to feel it has been done one too many times), on this occasion it worked. It showcased Bale and Wahlberg's characters more intimately, and fitted well with the boxing genre.
This is a surprisingly funny and moving film, but I can't help but compare it to Michael Mann's Ali ( 2001), and if I'm honest it would be tough for any boxing film to top that epic movie.