Dan's Review: "Bleed For This" lands a few good punches
Aaron Eckhart and Miles Teller in Bleed For This - © 2016 – Open Road Films
Bleed For This (Open Road)
Rated R for language, sexuality/nudity and some accident images.
Starring Miles Teller, Katey Sagal, Christine Evangelista, Amanda Clayton, Aaron Eckhar, Ciarán Hinds, Ted Levine, Tom DeNucci, Gene Amoroso, Daniel Sauli, Tina Casciani.
Written by Ben Younger, Pippa Bianco and Angelo Pizzo.
Directed by Ben Younger.
When it comes to boxing movies, there’s considerable debate as which is best. In one side of the ring, there are the artisan types who insist that Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull (all 20 hours of it) is the best boxing movie ever to hit the big screen. In the other corner, there’s the Rocky crowd who swoon over the “underdog beats the odds” ideal. In the middle, there are lots of boxing movies that end up in a split decision for movie fans. Some of them are based on real boxers (Cinderella Man, The Fighter) and a plethora of fictional movies (The Champ, Southpaw). The reality of boxing as a sport isn’t always as compelling as the movies make it seem. Most fights begin with a lot of jabbing, dancing around and clutching, with a few punches interspersed over 12 rounds. They usually end with a judging panel’s subjective decision, and not much excitement. Bleed for This is a boxing movie based on real athlete who beat the odds to fight after a devastating car crash, and it may not be a contender for “best boxing movie ever,” but it lands a few good punches.
Miles Teller plays Vincent “Paz” Pazienza, a boxer who has lost the confidence of his trainer Lou Duva (Ted Levine) after a series of defeats in the ring. After begging for another shot at the title, Duva assigns Kevin Mooney (Aaron Eckhart) to train Paz. Mooney’s instruction and a little luck lead Vinnie back to the title, but the joy of winning is lost when Vinnie gets into a car crash and suffers a broken neck. The doctor insists on fusing Vinnie’s vertebrae, but Paz refuses and ins fit with a metal “halo” that’s attached to his head with screws. Vinnie begins to train while recovering with the halo attached, much to the disdain of his father Angelo (Ciaran Hinds) and mother (Katey Segal). After recovering from the accident, Vinnie struggles to get another fight, since most boxers refuse to enter the ring with him, fearful that they might cripple him with one blow that could re-break his neck.
Vinnie must keep fighting to get back into the ring, and to overcome the odds and win again.
Bleed for This is not a bad film, but it’s not a very memorable one, either. Teller’s performance is adequate (although he doesn’t have a true boxer’s physique), along with Eckhart, Ciaran Hinds and Segal.
The drama of Bleed for This is barely conspicuous as you rapidly see where the story is headed. The message of refusing to quit (even when everyone thinks you should) can be applied to anyone’s life, especially if you’ve been metaphorically knocked to the mat from time to time (hint: you get back up again and refuse to quit, in case you haven’t been paying attention). Yes, we get it.
As a biopic film, Bleed for This embellishes several facts (especially Vinnie’s actual boxing record) and tends to make Pazienza’s character a little more humbled than he really is.
In the end, Bleed for This may not be a knockout, but it’s a solid win.
Bleed For This Trailer