Micky Ward’s championship career as a welterweight boxer in the ‘90s proves as generic as the title on his bio-pic, though not in a bad way. It’s his life outside the ring with an emasculating mother/manager, an older crack-addled brother/trainer & a strong-willed girlfriend with contagious self-confidence that puts a fresh pair of legs on those winded dramatic tropes. David O Russell helms in a fast-and-loose style, playing up the comedy (and comic horror) in Ward’s large, female-tilted Irish-Catholic family; and he makes this 1990s story feel more like Rocky Balboa’s ‘70s. (Lowell, Mass. tends to run behind the trends, anyway.) Even better, he pulls back from the cinematic boxing pyrotechnics that have dominated the screen since Martin Scorsese overfed the beast in RAGING BULL/’80. As, respectively, controlling mom & scapegrace brother, Melissa Leo & Christian Bale got lots of attention for their fierce, noisy perfs. They’re awfully good, but it’s hard to think of anyone missing with these juicy roles. (Bale is especially fine right at the end, adding a graceful exit that leaves the spotlight on his talented brother. Really moving stuff.) And Amy Adams is just-right as the new girlfriend with excellent film taste. But the film gets its footing from Mark Wahlberg’s stoic decency & body mass, a masterclass in selfless believability. He also nails the accent with more conviction (and less fuss) than anyone since Robert Mitchum ordered a cup of coffee in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE/’73.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY / DOUBLE-BILL: How come so many boxing pics feature brothers or brothers-in-law in their story lines? CITY FOR CONQUEST/’40; ROCKY/’76; RAGING BULL, even that post-boxing pic, ON THE WATERFRONT/’54.