Mark Wahlberg plays Ward, a struggling boxer trained by his crack-smoking half brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) and managed by his mother (Melissa Leo). But the under-confident Ward gets a shot in the arm when his new girlfriend (the quite terrific Amy Adams) spells out how his family has been more of a hindrance than a help, all of them more concerned with attaching themselves to Micky's potential glory.
The film has a lot going for it on paper, but an uneven pace and lack of structure subdue its strengths. The first half is more about the charismatic Eklund than it is Ward, removing focus from the central character. Not that Dicky Eklund isn't fascinating to watch, and indeed, Bale delivers an impressive portrait of addiction, but it does prevent us from really getting to know or care about Micky Ward. The stirring title bout at the film's finale is strong enough to leave a good taste in my mouth leaving the theatre, but it doesn't exactly undo the indifference I felt for the rest of it.
All that said, the recent bevy of Golden Globe and SAG nominations shows a clear base of support for the film that will probably translate to a number of Oscar nods: Picture, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress (probably two) at the least, with a possibility of Film Editing as well.
**1/2 out of ****