The Fighter is a total triumph. Christian Bale, as a crack-addicted boxing coach, is worth all the hype, but Mark Wahlberg, starring as boxer Micky Ward, is every bit his equal. Wahlberg clearly excels while working with director David O. Russell (they previously teamed on Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees) and it's clear from frame one that this is Wahlberg’s passion project. It's the least idiosyncratic movie that Russell has directed (he debuted with Spanking the Monkey and then followed with the brilliant black-comedy Flirting with Disaster) but switching it up a bit thematically and stylistically was probably a good move for him; he definitely showed that he’s got solid commercial chops and that he can stay focused with a concise story. The film also has some huge and unexpected doses of humor (mostly at the expense of the broadly drawn characterizations that comprise Ward’s white-trashy sisters) that really had me laughing out loud. It's a very solid piece of work on all fronts, and it'll be a tough movie for people to walk out of and say that they didn't like it or that it was bad. You might not like the brutality of boxing, you might not want to have your face rubbed in the low-class-Lowell-grit-'n-slime for two hours, and sure, most of the beats in the script are predictable, but it's got such a rousing finish and the story is so quintessentially American (who doesn’t love a second, sometimes third chance in life?), I don't think there's any question that it gets a best picture nomination. The acting across the board was so strong and persuasive that in tandem with the sharp and believable dialogue, the obviousness of some of story receded into the back of my mind. The Fighter has a somewhat traditional boxing movie story trajectory but everything is spiced up by the gritty, lived-in atmosphere and by the Ward family’s rough and tumble dynamics. Because at the end of the day, what makes The Fighter so effective are the characters on display, and the actors bringing them to life. It’s a crime that Bale has yet to get an Oscar (he should have won for American Psycho) but it seems impossible that he’ll lose this year…his work is Method to the extreme and unbelievably powerful. He’s able to make you love him despite his character’s many, many weaknesses and faults, and the brotherly chemistry that he shares with Wahlberg pumps up every scene. Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are obvious supporting actress contenders for their terrific work, and again, it needs to be said – without Wahlberg’s sensitive and quietly observed performance, the film would be without anchor. It's his best overall performance since Boogie Nights and it's something that he should be very proud of.