Sport on Film: Glove story packs a punch but Ward won't win top award

The Fighter could have been a contender for an Academy Award this evening, if there hadn't been so many other boxing movies jabbing away at the judges in the last dozen years – Million Dollar Baby, Ali, Hurricane, Cinderella Man. It's like the sport itself, where a proliferation of world title fights has rather devalued the meaning of being a champion. The lords of the ring may have to settle for an Oscar de la Hoya rather than the real thing.

That's not to say that The Fighter doesn't deserve to win Best Picture – it has been nominated – and there are so many candidates in the Best Supporting categories that there may be a punch-up: Christian Bale as Micky Ward's crack addict half-brother Dicky Eklund; Amy Adams as Ward's girl Charlene; and Melissa Leo as his domineering mother Alice.

The one who definitely won't pick up a gong is Mark Wahlberg, who plays Micky; he was not on the list, which is probably right since his character comes across like a thick ear when set against the mayhem wreaked by Dicky, Alice and her seven daughters with their terrifying hairspray creations. Their infighting leaves the boxing out for the count.

As films "based on a true story" go, this one is truer than most. Micky was a journeyman boxing in the shadows of Dicky, the Pride of Lowell who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard (or did he trip?) but drifted into addiction and recidivism while supposedly training his sibling. A film crew follows Dicky around making a documentary about crack addiction which was actually screened on HBO.

The Fighter was supposed to be a sequel about Dicky after 10 years in prison but over the next decade it evolved into a feature film. This was partly due to Wahlberg's backing. He grew up in a nearby Boston suburb as one of a similarly enormous brood. Ward was his local hero, and the families knew each other.

The actor came in as a producer, then spent four years honing his physique until he looked like a real boxer. Robert de Niro famously shed the pounds, then piled them back on to depict Raging Bull's Jake la Motta but Wahlberg's method was more meticulous. He had Ward over to stay at his Hollywood home for weeks on end and mimicked him precisely. Bale's searing and brilliant portrayal of Dicky was similarly studied.

For a change, the noble art doesn't have to dodge the punches. Boxing is shown at its most brutal – Ward's tactic was take the blows rope-a-dope style – but there is no medical sermon, nor is the sport held up as a cause of Dicky's decline. This film is about the family, if not a family film.

Yet the boxing sequences still knock spots off the more stylised depictions in Raging Bull and Rocky. It may not be the focus of attention but it is choreographed more faithfully than ever before. Wahlberg copied the way Ward fought. He also took on real boxers in long camera takes rather than recreating the fights in the editing suite – Ward credited him with a decent left hook.

The film ends before Ward's three "Fights of the Century" against Arturo Gatti, which earned him $3m. Eklund got off the crack and kept the gym going. The only downside was that the family kept feuding. But when it comes to a Big Fat Irish Punch-Up, it's probably best not to get involved. At the end of the film, at least you can "just walk away".

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas