In his portrayal of the talented but unexceptional athlete who makes of himself through dogged, diligent training a “champion”—if only junior welterweight—Mark Wahlberg is quietly convincing, the film’s anchor as he is the film’s core; his is a steady, stolid performance, subtly nuanced in the way of the young Al Pacino—a kind of “acting” indistinguishable from “real life.” By contrast—and the contrast is considerable—Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund, Micky’s half-brother and trainer, gives a tour de force performance, not unlike Joe Pesci’s in his first major film role as LaMotta’s manic brother Joey in Raging Bull.
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