The Fighter ★★★★

Wow! I was not expecting to be as ecstatic about this film. I was expecting to like it, but not to be blown away by it. It's made with a lot of grit and heart to go along with its blood and sweat and the theme of family is pretty much the heart of the entire story. David O. Russell makes a heck of a comeback as a filmmaker, even if it isn't quite up the weird alleys he was wondering six years ago in I Heart Huckabees.
The film is its own sucker punch and O. Russell's the arm behind it. Each of the actors get to land a blow too. Wahlberg is the stalwart in this crazy family, playing Micky with a quiet resourcefulness that has not really been in his repertoire in the past. Adams plays the intense, hard-nosed girlfriend who wants him to get out of his family alive. Though she is playing a real woman, this is the kind of character that would be very ordinarily written, but she gives her a soul. Bale and Leo are Ward's despicable brother and mother. We can tell Ward loves them, but can't stand them at the same time. Bale's Dickie has a heart; he's the classic has-been screw-up that's committed to his brother so wholly, despite his actions. Leo is the mother who thinks she's doing good, but is really just bringing her son down. Her actions speak so loudly and though her words always say she's not the bad guy, she really is. Leo plays her with such relish and commitment that we're literally disgusted by her. Both are so over the top that you have to fall for their performances.
Everything about it is great: his vision, the acting, the cinematography (loved the HBO/tv-style for the matches), the editing, the use of music, even the minimalistic sound design all come together in a way that strikes at the underdog in us, but manages something more. It rises above its cliche and hits its mark, kind of like Rocky did in 1976.