The title of this film refers to Micky Ward, a small time boxer, but unfortunately he turns out to be a bit of a wuss and the real bruiser is his elder brother, Dicky, who once knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard and is now trying to do the same to his crack habit. He’s irritating and irresponsible but he’s the bum we identify with because, like us, he’s truly flawed. But even though we get the wrong hero, this is still a compelling tale and family drama at its very best.
The Wards are an Irish family and Micky (Mark Wahlberg) is the younger son. His trainer is his brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), and he’s managed by his mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), whose only interest in her son’s career is financial. Dicky and Alice lurch from disaster to disaster, culminating in Mickey receiving a beating at the hands of someone he should never have been in the ring with. His girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams), sees how Micky’s family is destroying him and tries to get him to change his allegiances, but Micky refuses to listen, believing that family comes first.
Micky lets everyone push him around, from his brother, to his mother, to his seven sisters and, when he finds a new girlfriend, she gets in on the act too. It’s clear the message of this film is that families should stick together, no matter what, which is all fine and dandy, but there’s no reason why Micky can’t rile against their inadequacies, thus creating conflict and preventing him from being the passive anti-hero he is. He’s equally wishy-washy about boxing, whining that he’s not sure he wants to keep fighting; if he doesn’t feel passionate about his career, why should we?
All the characters are brilliantly drawn and through these people a gripping tale unfolds, but it never interweaves sufficiently with Micky’s inner struggle within the boxing world, and the best the writers can do at the end is throw mom, dad and girlfriend into the ring with the two brothers. It’s a great Kodak moment but if it was his family that gave him the clarity and strength to triumph, we didn’t see it.
The fun part of this movie is, absolutely, the women. They all curse and drink like sailors and Dicky is so terrified of his mother he jumps out of a second storey building to avoid having to deal with her. The chorus comes courtesy of the seven sisters, who all have big hair and look like they could go a few rounds with Sugar Ray themselves. Micky’s girlfriend, Amy Adams, didn’t particularly sparkle in her previous roles as a domestic goddess or a nun but as a foul-mouthed, street-fighting banshee, she does extremely well.
This crazy family’s penchant for drinking and fighting is, of course, a testament to their roots and, by the end of the film, we’re left wondering if God invented whisky just so the Irish can’t rule the world.
In theatres now, available 15th March on DVD, Blu-Ray & VOD from Paramount Home Entertainment