David O. Russell is such a great filmmaker but it's hard to imagine he'll ever top Three Kings. The Fighter, however, comes close; it's really, really good. Although there is plenty of boxing it's essentially a story of two brothers, Mickey Ward and Dicky Eklund, played by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Bale is the showier of the two performances, and a lot showier. He's like a Warner Brothers cartoon character on crack, and it's a great performance. I liked everyone else too--Amy Adams, just believable enough as a tough townie, Melissa Leo as a monstrous mother with her brood of terrifying daughters, and Wahlberg as a simple guy just trying to become a boxer. None of this would work, however, if Russell wasn't pulling the strings. It's beautifully paced, cut and packaged, and he handles the boxing scenes perfectly, making them realistic instead of aestheticized to death a la Scorsese.