Read the review after the jump.
BLEED FOR THISReview by Popa Razvan
The biopic "Bleed For This" recounts one of the most inspiring comebacks in boxing history, but despite its taltented cast and a powerful true story, it simply isn't as rousing as it should be.
The protagonist of this biography is Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller). When we are first introduced to him, he's fighting to sweat off some weight in order to make the weigh-in before his November 1988 match against Roger Mayweather. He loses the fight. From the opening scenes it becomes clear that Vinny may have the heart, but lacks the discipline to be a champion. His manager, Lou Duva (Ted Levine) advises him to try another career, but his father and coach, Angelo (Ciaran Hinds), won't hear of it. They manage to convince Duva to give Vinny another chance, but the boy needs some real training if he's to stand a chance against his next opponent.
To that end they recruit Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), a washed up coach who once trained the legendary Mike Tyson. Rooney comes up with the idea that maybe Vinny should move up to the junior middleweight division, and it turns out to be an inspired move as Pazienza eventually wins the WBA World Light Middleweigt Title against Gilbert Dele (Jean Pierre Augustin). He seemed to have a great future ahead of him. But life had other plans.
Vinny is involved in a car accident and sustains severe injury to his neck. Simply put, he broke his neck. The doctors tell him that if he's lucky, he might be able to walk again. Boxing, however, is out of the question. For Vinny that's just as bad as never walking again. They mount a Halo, a special device used to keep his head and neck immobilized. The device uses pins that are inserted into the skull and it's so cumbersome that it makes moving around or doing mundane things very difficult without help, or considerate effort. This was supposed to be the end of Vinny Pazienza's story.
However, the young man would not accept that he would never box again. So, unbeknownst to anyone, he began training on his own, in the basement of his parents' house, during the night, when no one was up to hear him. He eventually let Kevin in on his secret and started training together. Six months after the accident, the Halo was taken off and Vinny was ready to rise out of his own ashes and reclaim his lost glory.
The film's greatest strength, other than its story, is Teller's amazing performance. I suppose it's almost a norm nowadays to have an excellent actor leading a biopic, and usually they don't disappoint. It's also the case here. Teller explodes on the screen and infuses the film with much needed energy. Eckhart is also equally impressive, and the scenes these two actors share together on screen make for the most entertaining parts of the movie.
Apart from the performances, the film is a slow, dull experience, going through genre cliches without a second thought. At times it comes very close to not doing justice to its subject's truly inspirational story. It embraces the tone of a documentary when it's not abiding by the classic sports drama formula, but forgets that as a work of cinema it's supposed to find a way to make us care about these characters.
The film's few and far-between boxing scenes are also nothing to write home about. They are competently made, but framed by all too familiar training montages and underdog melodrama, offering little that hasn't been done before. Despite the high stakes of Pazienza's real-life struggles, I ended up feeling underwhelmed about what was happening in the ring, which I suppose wasn't the filmmakers' intention.
Overall it's an okay boxing drama, definitely not the best of its kind, despite a powerful comeback story. It relies on its actors to carry the heavy burden, but that can only get you so far. Perhaps it's a story that is better suited for a documentary rather than a feature film.
- Solid performances from Teller and Eckhart
- A strong boxing comeback story
- Unengaging and badly paced
- Familiar underdog melodrama laced with the usual cliches
- Forgettable boxing sequences
ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR SCORE: 70%
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