One of the things I like about The Fighter is the plainness of its title. The lack of adornment is nicely representative of the straightforwardness of its storytelling, the directness of its performances and the confident ease of the directing. The film isn’t exactly a bounty of surprises or daring choices, but stands as an illustration of the dependable value of sturdy, thoughtful, heartfelt filmmaking. In telling the story of boxer Micky Ward, a welterweight who overcame various struggles and family turmoil to make an improbable run to the top of his sport, Russell captures the drive and the heart that is the lifeblood of sports movies, and yet always manages to make the material feel vital and fresh. That’s partially because he locks in on the the earthiness of the characters; the film becomes a distillation of the central characters’ no-nonsense working class style. Amazingly, given the broad Boston accents and boisterous behavior of Ward’s family, Russell and his collaborators sidestep caricature to offer a portrait of amused admiration that honors the people are assuredly as raising an icy pint to them at the corner bar. Wahlberg is terrific in the leading role, translating his trademark relaxed sincerity into a aching reticence that conveys all the battles his character has fought and lost, both inside and outside of the ring. He provides the ideal counterpoint to the more colorful performances that fill in the film, especially inventive revelatory work by Christian Bale as his trouble-making brother who happens to have a keen mind for the game, and Amy Adams as the brusque bartender who becomes his girlfriend and helps him find a way past the barriers set up by his family. The film winds up as an sterling example of a fine story expertly told. It perseveres in winningly workmanlike fashion, just like Micky Ward did.