Let's go for the KO question shall we: is this a "Rocky" for a new generation?
The answer is both yes and no. The comparisons are inevitable, and as it stands, deserved. It's a man fighting his way, literally, through adversity to rise to his potential with it all hinging on one big fight. There is the standard montage moment and just for good measure, a second one is thrown in to show how Bale's crack head brother has turned a corner. There are six boxing matches shown with the last two able to enter the ring and hold their own against anything that Stallone gave in his "Rocky" franchise. But that's where the lines between them must be erased.
Just as Matt Damon had to leave those behind who held him back in "Good Will Hunting" and Ben Affleck in "The Town" Wahlberg has his, to be frank, awful family to rise above - they nearly beat Swank's sickening relatives from "Million Dollar Baby" And it's this thread that separates director David O. Russell's film from other sports films. This is because the story gets to deliver three great roles of which two are powerhouses from their actors. Wahlberg is solid as the pushed around, kept in the shadows son/brother which deserves notice, but the accolades must be placed whether you like it or not, squarely at Bale's feet.
His character and the portrayal are larger-than-life but that's the way it has to be for Wahlberg's eventual victory to be all-the-more sweeter. Much may be made of his physical look in the film - drawn, pasty and haunted eyes - but his constant referencing of his shot at fame and subsequent manipulation of others using it along with the physic is the one-two combination that will floor audiences.
The other KO performance is from Amy Adams as the girlfriend who becomes the kick start and then the momentum for the events that unfold. If you don't feel like punching the air when she goes head-to-head against the mother on their first meet, or when she squares up to the sisters, then shame on you!
Rising above it's well-worn story roots, "The Fighter" is definitely a contender for your attention.
UK release date: 04.02.11