Mr. Movie

'The Fighter' ranks as one of year's best

I wasn’t able to catch a critic’s screening of The Fighter but did manage to finally catch it.

Other than True Grit, this is the movie you want to spend your hard-earned holiday movie money on this season.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

It is rated R for violence and language so taking the little ones is out of the question.

Boxer Mickey Ward fought from the mid-1980s until 2003 and — against all odds — ended up a champion and a boxing legend.

His biggest fight — according to this “true” story — may have been outside the ring. Managed by his control-freak mom and trained by his drug-addicted brother, Ward’s career hit the skids. Only when he met the woman of his dreams, and his druggie brother ended up in the penitentiary, did Ward get the management needed to turn his career around.

Here’s what’s most unusual about The Fighter. It has four screenwriters. Normally, that’s the kiss of death and a sign that the plot will waste your time and money and wander for 90 minutes to two hours before the Hollywood ending and the credits put it — and you — out of your misery.

That’s not the case with The Fighter. The writers take a lot of dramatic liberties with Ward’s story and turn it into a real-life Rocky. And like our favorite pug’s story, it is inspiring as only Hollywood can do it.

Truth enters the picture sometimes and dramatic license at others.

Director David O. Russell ( Three Kings) also benefits from brilliant casting. Mark Wahlberg plays the hapless and sometimes helpless Ward. He’s a man torn between duty to family and self-preservation. Wahlberg is a great actor and perfect for the role.

The real sizzle comes from Christian Bale. To add realism, Bale shed a ton of weight, thinned his hair and took on a haunted, skeletal look. Normally quite handsome, Bale is hard to look at. And he plays the irresponsible junkie brother perfectly. It is hands-down the best acting in the film, probably the best supporting acting work of the year and arguably the best acting of the year in any category.

Also of note is Melissa Leo ( Frozen River) who plays Ward’s psycho, control-freak mom.

The Fighter is a great movie. One of the year’s best.

The industry has noticed, too. Best cast, best male supporting actor for Christian Bale and supporting actress nods for Melissa Leo and Amy Adams at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Best Picture Drama, Best Director for David O. Russell, Best Actor, Drama for Mark Wahlberg, Supporting Actor for Bale and supporting actress nods for Leo and Adams from the Golden Globes.

High and worthy praise.

Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars

Rated R for mature themes, violence and language. It is playing at the Carmike 12 and the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.