Micky Ward(Mark Wahlberg) is a boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts. He trains under his older half brother Dicky Eklund(Christian Bale) from whom he has learnt all that knows now. Dicky is a former boxing champion who has now fallen from grace and is addicted to crack cocaine. Alice Ward(Melissa Leo), their mom, acts as the manager. Micky has been very unlucky so far since his mom cannot get him good fights and his brother regularly fails to show up on time for the training sessions. Alice’s family is big with seven daughters and two sons. Her current husband is George Ward, Micky’s dad. The entire family is extremely bonded to each other. Micky is divorced and his daughter lives with his former wife. Micky wants to win boxing matches and earn enough money to get his daughter back into his life.
At a family dinner at a local restaurant before Micky is scheduled for a boxing match in Atlantic City, he gathers courage to get the phone number of the beautiful bartender Charlene Fleming(Amy Adams). He sets up a date with her on the coming Saturday when he is back from the match. When the limousine arrives the next day to pick up Micky, Dicky is late as he is getting high with his friends. Eventually, Micky, Alice, George and Mickey O'Keefe(playing himself) the stand-in trainer finds Dicky and reaches Atlantic City. Just before the match starts, Micky is given a raw deal and is asked to fight a boxer who heavier than him. Micky loses fight and returns home in shame. When Micky does not turn for the date on Saturday, he is confronted at his house by Charlene. Together, they go out on a date later. When Charlene questions Micky harshly about the poor choices made on the date, Micky opens up and admits the shame of losing the battle to her.
Three weeks later, Alice learns that Micky and Charlene are in a steady relationship. Micky also informs his mom and his siblings on his plans to train in Las Vegas under a different trainer and manager. The family blames Charlene. Dicky promises everyone to get the money for Micky for a status quo. But Dicky ends up crossing the line of law with a prison sentence for him and a broken arm for Micky. The family is devastated. After watching the documentary named "High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell" chronicling Dicky's fall from grace airs on HBO, the lives of the two brothers undergo changes. Micky starts training again under O'Keefe with a new manager. Dicky fights his addiction. How Micky ends up as a winner without losing his ties to his family is told in the remaining part of the movie.
David O Russell directs this drama about loyalty and familial bonding based on the real life story of Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. The story focuses on the emotional turmoil of Micky Ward who struggles for a better life while trying to keep his family together. The family here do not necessary refer to those with the same bloodline. The success of David lies in telling a story of ordinary people with whom the viewer connects easily. David heightens the drama without going overboard. One such instance is the scene showing the solidarity of the family during the climax fight. Charlene shouts at Dicky on how he is handling Micky inside the ring and Dicky shouts back asking her not to interfere. The emotional outburst is silenced by Alice by gently shushing Charlene, pulling her to Alice's side and explaining to her what Dicky is doing. Everything is over in a few seconds. But it gives the viewer a lasting impression. In spite of being a serious movie, the circumstances and reactions at many places invoke genuine laughter in the viewer.
The movie also works because of the performances by Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. Mark's Micky struggles with his inner demons while trying to keep his family together. One of the best scenes of the movie is when he tells his sisters to show respect and immediately turns to Charlene to ask her not to say anything. The conflicts and the pain is visible in his actions throughout the movie. Christian Bale as Dicky has the most difficult task in hand. He shows two phases in the life of Dicky. While the mannerism remain the same, Christian show different emotions during these different phases. His unsuccessful escape from the cops and also how his demeanor changes after watching the HBO documentary shows how good an actor he is. Melissa's Alice is tough. Watch out for the scene when she cries on hearing Dicky sing. Amy Adams surprises in a role which is markedly different from her previous ones.
Go for it. The movie makes you feel good. You may not expect to laugh when you enter the movie hall. But you will end up laughing and smiling throughout the movie.