NOMINATED for seven Oscars, including three nods for its supporting cast, The Fighter is an incredible story of triumph against adversity in and out of the boxing ring.
The brutal and physically demanding sport has frequently been a magnet for plaudits.
In 1977, Rocky pummelled the opposition at the Oscars, winning Best Picture and Best Director, and four years later, Raging Bull landed Robert De Niro a deserved Academy Award as Best Actor for his riveting portrayal of Jake LaMotta.
More recently, Denzel Washington entered the Academy Awards ring with his powerful embodiment of wrongly imprisoned boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and director Clint Eastwood delivered a knockout blow with Million Dollar Baby, earning Hilary Swank her second Oscar.
The Fighter provides all of the usual emotional jabs as its working-class hero defies the odds for one shot at glory.
Tensions between the pugilist and his family threaten to derail his championship bid, culminating in the obligatory final flurry to coax the audience to its feet.
Micky (Mark Wahlberg) is a talented boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, but he has always languished in the shadow of his half-brother Dicky (Christian Bale), who famously knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard then lost everything to the ravages of drugs and crime.
Trained by Dicky and managed by his monstrous mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), Micky accepts lacklustre fights for scant rewards until he is persuaded to cut himself loose from his loved ones and punch above his weight for the first time in his life.
New girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), who works in a bar, encourages Micky to follow his dreams, incurring the wrath of the Ward clan, who resent outsiders from interfering in family business.
Sure enough, Micky tastes victory and as his confidence grows, he faces the possibility of a shot at the world light welterweight title.
The Fighter is well crafted by director David O Russell, juxtaposing Micky’s struggle for self-belief and self-respect with his unwavering love for his selfish and self-destructive family.
Wahlberg’s non-performance is virtually mute next to Bale and Leo in full scenery-chewing flow, who compete for honours as the loudest caricature on the Ward family tree.
Thankfully, Adams brings nuances to her ballsy barmaid, who will literally slug it out for her man.
The Fighter punches to win with directorial flair but in a brawl with Raging Bull, Rocky or Million Dollar Baby, O’Russell’s film would be knocked out in the final round.