If there’s any justice at the Oscars, Christian Bale is a solid lock to win Best Supporting Actor for his turn here as the meth addicted brother of an aspiring boxing champ. I’ve heard flashy roles like this are easier on an actor than playing someone who’s basically “normal,” yet Bale gets the whole thing: the addiction, the self-hatred, the humanity, the nastiness and the desperate striving toward decency. It’s really wonderful work.
The picture’s good too, though the first half is tough to bear. Based on a true story, it depicts a thoroughly dysfunctional family acting in loving concert to try to destroy one of its own – the fighter of the title, well-played by Mark Wahlberg. Then, in a stunning sequence mid-way, everything changes and the story becomes something unexpected and deeply moving.
Oh, and also, there’s one of modern Hollywood’s better portrayals of our old friend Mr. God, who clearly played a major role in the real-life tale and who gets a subtle but respectful nod here. Which I liked, because it lets the truth be known without being off-putting or preachy.