Photo courtesy of indiewire.com
Miles Teller stars in this mostly by-the-numbers boxing film that’s still able to inspire and entertain like the best of them.
Michael Lane, Copy Editor
“Bleed For This,” from writer-director Ben Younger, is yet another in a long line of recently released boxing films. Based on the real-life story of Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza, “Bleed For This” is unfortunately unable to stray from the familiar trappings found in countless boxing films before it. However, it is still successful in many aspects — most notably the dedicated lead performance from Miles Teller and Larkin Seiple’s excellent cinematography — even if it’s never allowed to reach its full potential due to middling fight editing and choreography.
Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) isn’t soft spoken or humble, and he’s definitely not a Rocky type. He’s a loudmouth who frequents strip-clubs and has a gambling addiction, but he’s also freakishly dedicated and an impressive boxer to boot. “Bleed For This” moves through the motions in its first 45 minutes, still being entirely enjoyable as Younger shows off the aforementioned traits of Pazienza through a couple of his most pivotal matches.
The downside, however, is that it all feels too comfortable in the beginning as these scenes and character archetypes are what we’ve all seen before. However, viewers are thrown a curveball in the form of Pazienza being involved in a horrific car accident that breaks his neck.
The film’s second act truly shines as we watch a crippled Pazienza deal with the implications that he may never get to fight again. Initially following the accident, Pazienza withers away in bed day after day. He now wears the monstrosity that is a halo, a brace that’s literally screwed into his skull meant to keep his head and neck in place so that he doesn’t completely sever his cervical spine.
But don’t forget, this is still a boxing film. With the help of his new trainer, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), Pazienza begins training again with hopes of continuing his recently blossoming career. “Bleed For This” wears its countless clichés on its sleeve, never straying too far from the screenplay archetype you’d likely find in a “Boxing Screenwriting For Dummies” book, as Younger adds in the routine training montages and ringside pep talks. Still, it’s easy to look past the film’s many tropes as it enjoyably breezes through to its climactic finale.
Teller, one of the most committed and impressive young actors working today, delivers a remarkable performance as Pazienza, easily standing out as the film’s top asset. Pazienza himself is sleazy enough for you to question his intentions and lifestyle, yet remains charming and completely likable throughout. The washed-up boxing coach Kevin Rooney is similarly captivating to watch due to a capable performance from the always-dependable Eckhart. Even better, the chemistry between the two is awesome to watch as each actor elevates the other to even greater heights.
The fight scenes are where I was most unimpressed with “Bleed For This.” The three fights highlighted over the course of the film are marred with inconsistent editing and pacing. None of the fights are really allowed the time to effectively build the right amount of tension before their ringing of the final bell. And, in some instances, it was unclear which fighter was punching which due to close-up shots. Perhaps I’m just spoiled after last year’s excellent “Creed” featured some of the most lifelike fake boxing ever put to film, but the fights here just left me unsatisfied.
“Bleed For This” isn’t the most original film you’ll see this year, but that’s okay. Director Younger is still able to create a biographical drama worth seeing, portraying a truly inspirational story of boxing’s “greatest comeback of all time,” all the while enthusiastically embracing the clichés that every boxing film has been built on since the original “Rocky” came out 40 years ago.
This is no “Rocky,” nor “Creed,” but “Bleed For This” is pleasant. Sometimes, that’s good enough.