There's much buzz about Christian Bale's performance in The Fighter and rightly so but the movie's not supposed to be about his character but about his character's brother. (Though an argument could be made that the movie title refers to Bale's character as well. Hmmmm. Discuss.) So we've got two compelling stories to follow: the primary story of Mickie Ward and his struggle to make the boxing big time and Dickie Ecklund, Mickie's half-brother, and his struggle to stay on the straight and narrow. Pick either one to root for and you won't lose.
So Bale's performance eclipses everything else and, yes, it's a good one. Look past his drastic weight loss, though, and see how he physically inhabits the role, how he physically interacts with the other characters. It's both obvious and subtle at the same time. And then stick around for the end credits to see the actual character and see how close Bale came. Sure, Bale's a great mimic but his physical performance is used to service his character's development and enhance the plot which is what it should be.
Raging Bull has spoiled us for the depiction of boxing scenes but here they're more than adequate. The supporting actors and on location sets enhance the real-life feeling of this well-made movie. A great story about family ties and love and hard work, values celebrated too rarely at the movies.