Contender: ‘The Fighter’

Oscar chances come from supporting cast

In David O. Russell’s unconventionally conventional biopic of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo play Ward’s brother and mother — the two people standing in the way of his title-bout prospects. Ironically, they’re among best shots for “The Fighter” at an Oscar title.

The film may be Ward’s story, but pound for pound, it’s as much about Bale’s crack-smoking, loose-limbed Dicky Eklund, to the point where this supporting actor contender could draw some lead votes, alongside Mark Wahlberg’s more tamped-down portrait of Ward. As for Leo (an actress nominee for 2008’s “Frozen River”), playing an overbearing mama has never hurt a supporting actress’ chances (just ask Mo’Nique), though she could find herself running against her twice-nominated co-star Amy Adams (“Junebug,” “Doubt”) as Ward’s equally strong-willed g.f.

A rousing boxing movie with a surfeit of lively, often very funny family drama, “The Fighter” has an excellent shot at muscling its way into the picture category, though Russell (widely admired for his idiosyncratic filmmaking, less so for his idiosyncratic on-set behavior) faces stiffer competition in the director race. And the script’s sharp character portraits and unruly structure, artfully dressing up the pic’s otherwise familiar fight-saga trajectory, could give it a shot at the original screenplay prize.

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