Micky Ward vs. Shea Neary, 'The Fighter' (2010)
Director David O. Russell'c contribution to the genre focuses on Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a Lowell, Massachusetts brawler with a lotta heart, a domineering mother/manager and a coulda-been-a-contender brother (Oscar-winner Christian Bale) who's losing a battle against crack addiction. His big fight against Shea Neary looks like a disaster, pitting him against a superior boxer from a higher weight class. But Micky lures his opponent into a rope-a-dope-like trap of overpunching until the spirited underdog starts landing jabs and uppercuts. Cue triumph of the human spirit!
Pretend boxing skills: Wahlberg is a longtime boxing enthusiast and went straight to the source for inspiration, inviting Ward on set to mimic his mannerisms (he even had both brothers stay at his house). He also got additional help from Freddie Roach, a professional trainer, and Manny Pacquiao, who's Roach's prize student. 10
Style: Russell stays with the fight long enough to make sense of Ward's strategy, which has him losing badly on points right up until he scores a knockout in the eighth round. He's also content to let HBO Sports take over the camera and commentary as if the fight were being produced for broadcast — not a surprise, given that he purposefully used the same cameramen who shot the network's fight coverage back in the day. It's a methodology that works...sometimes. 6
Stakes: For Micky Ward, this is his one longshot chance at a welterweight title, and an opportunity for his brother to put his life back together. The human stakes outweigh the sporting ones. 9
Overall rating: 8