What makes The Fighter more than an average boxing film (of which there have been so many), is the fact the story isn't confined to the ring. The action in the boxing ring is merely a supporting player to the drama played out in Micky and Dicky's family life. And the fact The Fighter doesn't reach a new level as far as depicting boxing matches on film and yet is still one of the best boxing movies in history speaks volumes for the work of director Russell, screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, and the entire ensemble cast led by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. We see a few pivotal fights play out in the ring, but the emotional battles and wounds inflicted by words alone are the heart and soul of this compelling drama.
By Rebecca Murray, from About.com
Fans of boxing movies follow the rankings just as closely as boxing fans do. Whenever a new one comes along, they want to know where it ranks, if at all, in the pantheon that includes such classics as "Raging Bull," "Rocky" and "The Champ." In the case of "The Fighter,'' a perfectly remarkable movie directed by David O. Russell, I'd suggest a different pantheon, one that's reserved for the sort of spectacularly toxic families dramatized by Eugene O'Neill. While the film handles itself well in the ring, it's brilliant in the arena of a blue-collar family that brutalizes its younger son and best hope for worldly success in the name of sustaining him.
By Joe Morgenstern, from Wall Street Journal
The boxing sequences get bunched toward the end. Russell deliberately shoots them in brightly lit video that makes it look like you're watching television. He has broadcasters and ringsiders comment on the fights, but seldom takes you close enough to hear what Dicky might be saying to Micky. You're outside the ring, not inside. So like much of this film, the viewer is turned into an observer. You never feel close enough to the action, either in the ring or in the kitchens, living rooms and tough streets where the story takes place. The characters engage you up to a point but never really pull you in.
By Kirk Honeycutt, from The Hollywood Reporter