There is arguably no point in making boxing movies anymore. While the sport is still the best suited for the big-screen, there’s nothing new to be found in this overcrowded genre. But when has originality ever been a prerequisite for entertainment? Sometimes you can skew over originality in a film, as long as there’s a great story and compelling characters. Bleed for this, the latest addition to the never-ending onslaught of boxing movies, succeeds in being unoriginal, but very enjoyable.
Bleed for This tells the amazing real-life story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), a middleweight champion who did the impossible. He managed to claw his way back to the top after breaking his neck in a car crash. With a metal brace screwed into his head, the Pazmanian Devil refused to throw in the towel. This film is your classic comeback story, told in the rise-and-fall structure.
Having bulked up for the role, Teller shows a level of commitment equal to his efforts in Whiplash. He brings the same obsessive personality to his portrayal of Pazienza. I have followed Teller’s career for a while now and although he’s featured in a few bad films, he’s a very good actor. I’m sure he will be around for years to come.
Teller tracks Pazienza’s life as an underdog boxer. He’s likeable, young and hard-working, with a supportive family. His father (Ciaran Hinds) is always ringside, cheering him on, while his mother (Katey Sagal) watches every fight at home. But it’s legendary trainer, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) who’s the key to Vinny’s success. Rooney whips him into shape and gets him ready to fight again, after the car crash that everyone thought there was no coming back from.
Pazienza and Rooney form a likeable double act. Much of the film focuses on their relationship and Vinny’s recovery. That means a lot of the running time is spent outside of the ring. I’ve seen a lot of reviews say the film is boring when there’s no fight scenes. I disagree. There’s enough going on to keep you engaged, and Teller as an actor has a level of magnetism that makes you want to keep watching.
Bleed for This is a story we’ve seen a dozen times. That’s the film’s biggest flaw. It’s not as nail-biting as it should be either, but it still has that big-screen boxing charm. Even though this film keeps you squarely on your seat, you’ll be eager to see how it plays out.
When you really think about it, Pazienza’s comeback is incredible. He was told by doctors he may never walk again and thirteen months later, he reclaimed his title in the ring. Even if you hate the film, you have to appreciate this against the odds triumph.
Bleed for This may be predictable, but it’s engaging and well put together. It’s a fair portrait of a champion boxer, bolstered by solid acting. Whether you’re a boxing film fan or not, Bleed for This is worth giving a shot.
Directed and written by: Ben Younger
Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciaran Hinds, Ted Levine
Distributor: Open Road Films
Run Time: 117 minutes