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The Fighter is a success because of Christian Bale with really strong support from Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. The movie was well made, but the writing and direction were just average and Mark Wahlberg was only at his best (which isn't necessarily a compliment), but Bale, Adams, and Leo were exceptional.
The story, which I thought would be the same typical underdog sports story, actually has a little something extra with the unintentional sabotage of Mickey Ward's career by his immediate family (specifically his mother and brother). Some of the worst things have been done with the best intentions and Dickie Ecklund and Alice Ward were just too self-involved to really be on Mickey Wards side.
The Fighter is a remarkable film and is sure to make a few appearances this awards season.