I have come to accept that Mark Wahlberg is always cast as Mark Wahlberg. Having not worked with him I cannot say if that is because he is a one trick pony, or if Hollywood expects him to only be able to handle that one character over and over. Thankfully for him, the timid, quiet, internally strong, baby face is a character that is seen in many (too many?) films.
So in “The Fighter” Mark Wahlberg is that character, “Irish” Mickey Ward. In this case he is a boxer living in the shadow of his older brother Dickie Eklund who’s claim to fame was dropping boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard in what most believed was actually a slip and push. Christian Bale is the older brother, and you can very clearly see him and his method acting appearing a bit uncomfortably at first as overacting. His character Dickie ends up becoming a tragic story of a crack addict coming from a large and ugly white trash family. Trust me, I know white trash, and this was red-lining the trailer trash tachometer. (notice the NASCAR reference when referring to white trash)
The film is of course about what you would assume it to be after I led up with those two character profiles. The nice guy being kept down and guilted by his family to control him. His mother Alice Ward is his manager (played flawlessly by Melissa Leo), his druggie brother is his trainer, and there is a woman who enters the picture and intervenes to save Mickey. That is Charlene Freeman played by Amy Adams who was gave one of the most compelling performances. Ultimately there is a redemption, and everything works out in the end.
I actually found the end of the movie to be a good clarification of the way the brothers were portrayed. During the credits you get to see actual video of the real life brothers in a restaurant in the small town where they still live. Just when you thought Bale was overacting, you find out that his real life character was just as over the top. You also see the real life version of Wahlberg’s character acting similarly quiet and coy matching the stock Wahlberg character. I think if we would have seen it in the beginning… maybe the initial 20 minutes where I was distracted being sure Bale was being over the top wouldn’t have happened.