The Fighter tells the story of welterweight professional boxers Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his elder half brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). The story fades in beautifully with the initial parts mostly describing their life and family in Lowell, a small industrial town in Massachusetts, USA. The story may of course in retrospect be inevitably compared to greats like the Rocky series and Raging Bull but in its heart, David. O Russel has taken a more Clint Eastwood-ish take on the subject, like the great did in Million Dollar Baby.
The Fighter explores newer angles and scopes in the tried and tested genre and truly carves out a masterpiece. Dicky is a former champion, the "Pride of Lowell". He is fixated with his one moment of glory when he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard (the trueness of the event ambiguous). He is a "crack" addict. He has lost a lot of his self-respect and judgement, but not his skill and integrity. He loves his brother, he loves his mother, he loves his family. He also hasn't lost his sense of humor, probably this freeness and extrovert attitude is what is reflected in his style of boxing.
Micky on the other hand is passive, silent and a man of much more self-respect and sound judgement. He has his integrity too, but has been guided by too many ideas of others throughout his life. He explores a new self after he meets his girlfriend, Charlene (Amy Adams; lovable, charming and powerful) and yes all these attributes are beautifully carved into his fighting style that we can see opens up as the movie progresses.
Credit goes to Bale and Wahlberg to so beautifully get into the skin of these characters and provide this contrast amongst the half-brothers and credit goes to the writer and director to narrate both, the rivalry and camaraderie between the two characters. The story is not free from cliches though. Yes, it is an underdog making it big later, but yes, the journey, the execution and the progression of the story is very fresh.
For a movie based on the life of two boxers, The Fighter does not really go deep in explaining the dynamics of the sport, but what it rather focuses on is the multiple themes attached to the characters' lives. Crack addiction, family bonding, brotherhood , neighborhood, small town dynamics, a love story, a mother and son relationship and many more sub themes. What makes The Fighter such a good piece of cinema (also, nominated for 7 major Oscars) is that in spite of dealing with so many sub themes, it does not deviate, it stays true to its subject; the story of Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund!