2010 // USA // David O. Russell // December 26, 2010 // Theatrical Print (St. Louis Cinemas Chase Park Plaza)B- - There's little that's ground-breaking in The Fighter, David O. Russell's grimy, amusing worm's-eye portrait of light welterweight boxing champion Mickey "Irish" Ward (an appropriately bulked and vulnerable Mark Wahlberg). The story sticks to the tropes of countless tales about working-class kids who escapes their dismal surroundings through excellence in one sphere or another. Meanwhile, the film's 1990s Lowell, Massachusetts setting is saturated with the sort of affectionately misshapen blue-collar Bay State characters and locales that now serve as stock cinematic fodder. This isn't to say that Russell's film is without its appealing features, chief among them the director's facility for rendering his boxing sequences with enviable vitality and sensational drama. Christian Bale, as Ward's crack-addicted, ex-fighter brother (and sometimes trainer) Dick-Eklund, undergoes yet another astonishing physical transformation, here into a sweaty, bug-eyed heap of deceit and cloying reassurances. While the lack of ambition in Russell's approach to the material is often unsatisfactory, the film proffers its share of lingering elements. These range from the garish, as in Mickey's assemblage of dog-faced, sailor-mouthed older sisters, to the reserved, as in the smears of bright blue icing on a character's skin and clothes. There are just enough of these memorable particulars to save The Fighter from dismissal.