Knocking the new kid’s block off
The Fighter, boxing bio, rated R, Regal DeVargas and Regal Stadium 14, 3.5 chiles
I“Ding ’em to the head, pound ’em to the body.”
That’s the boxing mantra Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) drills into his younger half-brother, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), and it fits the style of this haymaker of a movie, which tells its fact-based story with sly pokes and brutal body blows.
Dicky is a former welterweight fighter who once took the great Sugar Ray Leonard to the canvas in an HBO televised bout. Leonard got back up and beat the tar out of him, and questions linger as to whether it was a knockdown or a slip, but Eklund went the distance with the champ, and that moment was enough to elevate him to hero status in his working-class neighborhood of Lowell, Massachusetts, and earn him the nickname “The Pride of Lowell.”
Dicky is washed up now, a crack addict and a bum, and it’s Micky who’s on the rise as a fighter. But with his career tightly wound up in his family — Dicky is his trainer, his mother Alice (Melissa Leo) is his manager — he has fast become what’s known in the fight game as a “stepping stone,” a respectable matchup and a reliable win for a fighter who is going somewhere.
Like most good fight movies, this is something that’s really about something else. Here it’s all about family, about the power structure in this close-knit New England clan in which Micky is still very much the junior member of the firm. Micky’s family loves him, but they don’t always make good decisions for him. The recipe is a familiar one: unless he can extricate himself and stand on his own, he’s never going to amount to anything. If you’re familiar with boxing — or with boxing movies — you