Bleed for This
Boxing movies have been basically burnt out. There was a golden period in time when Rocky and Raging Bull came out, but after their great success everyone instantly began to copy them. There’s been more than fair share of duds, and yet there have also been some respectable films, like Cinderella Man or Million Dollar Baby. Bleed for This is the latest boxing film, that falls on the more positive side of the genre.
Bleed For This is the true story of the incredible comeback that boxer Vinny Pazienza made in the late 80s. Pazienza (Miles Teller) is on top of the world as champion of his junior middleweight in ’88. However, one fateful day he suffers a car crash, which fractures his spine making it likely he’ll never walk again. But, through sheer determination, Pazienza chooses to wear a halo gear (which is like scaffolding holding his head in place) and he begins training again to get back in the ring.
The story itself is incredible, and it makes you wonder how come this never made it to our screens sooner, it’s such classic Hollywood bait. Ben Younger directs the film, and while the general feeling is positive, I did have some problems with the film.
The film starts off great and it has an enjoyable ending, however the entire middle part of the film is very lacking in both pace and scope. During the beginning and end, the film puts emphasis on how boxing influences Pazienza’s relationship with his coach (played by Aaron Eckhart) and with his father (played by Cieran Hinds), but in the middle of the film, where there is no action, the relationships are put on hold and instead the film focuses on moping around how terrible Pazienza’s condition is. 20 minutes of depressing time would be enough, it would have been better to see how boxer and coach grow closer together (there was definitely some great chemistry between Eckhart and Teller), or even the relationship with his family.
Then there is the female voices in the film. While I understand that the focus of the film is in Pazienza’s story, I can’t help but see so many wasted female roles. His mother (played by Katey Sagal) is brought in only when the plot deems it necessary, his sister (Amanda Clayton) is used simply for comic relief, and Pazienza’s romantic interests are all simple escorts, except for one. At one point in the film we see a girl eating dinner with Pazienza and his family when he is at his lowest point in his recovery and morale. She has few lines, but she says that she doesn’t mind the headgear, or if Pazienza is never able to get into the ring again. Pazienza’s own mother in the scene says: “this girl’s the one.” You wonder then why she never comes up again either physically or in conversation for the rest of the film. It was a wasted opportunity to show some other emotional side of the boxer, or how a relationship went beyond the boundaries of fame or of boxing itself.
The acting is very strong in this film. Teller is cast very well in the cocky and arrogant role of Pazienza, a type of role that he is known to be good at, though I fear he’s becoming boxed in with the theme. Eckhart is brilliant as well, easily one of the best parts of the film and brilliantly characterized. He completely leaves his pretty-boy looks from other films and plays a beer-bellied and alcoholic motivator, to perfection.
The ending is impressive enough, though you can’t say you didn’t see it coming; overall Bleed for This is a positive experience with some fun performances, though flat second act.