Bleed for This Movie Review
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Everyone knows that boxing is a dangerous sport. When these gladiators go toe-to-toe in the ring they are putting themselves in harm’s way every time. It’s natural to think that when they are out of the ring, maybe they can just kick back and relax. Unfortunately life doesn’t always work like you think it should. For one boxer, the biggest fight of his life will come outside the ring and the stakes have never been higher. Bleed for This is an incredible true story of personal triumph over all things impossible.
Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) is an American boxer out of Rhode Island. He grew up fighting the odds and winning. Even when he didn’t, he just came back for more. That’s just how he’s wired, plain and simple. After losing a fight, as well as the confidence of some of those in his camp, Vinny rebrands himself under a new trainer. Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) is also seen as somewhat of a cast-off but ends up finding redemption and purpose in training Vinny. This leads to a championship fight and subsequently, the belt.
Celebrations are very short lived however, as Vinny is involved in a horrible auto accident that leaves him inches from permanent paralysis. While just about everyone is hoping and praying that he can recover enough to lead a mostly normal life, Vinny is eyeballing getting back into the ring. This mindset is what separates him from most people in the world. His will and determination to achieve what others deem a pursuit of fool’s gold is exactly what defines him.
Bleed for This isn’t some Rocky knockoff that follows the all-too-common template of “boxer wins, boxer loses focus and fight, boxer finds new beginnings and wins.” Nope. This is more or less real life and real life isn’t that cut and dry. As a professional boxer, Vinny Pazienza had 60 professional fights and lost 10 of them. Don’t expect all sunshine and roses. It’s also worth noting that boxing fans who actually followed this story (and remembered) when it happened in 1991, there are some factual liberties taken to make the plot more compelling. The theatrical line of events differs from the factual line of events in that there were addition fights in between some of the bigger moments that Bleed for This builds around. I only mention this so old school fans of the sport don’t go fussing about. Director Ben Younger (Boiler Room (2000)) trims things up a bit and cut some corners but it really doesn’t take away from the movie itself.
Vinny’s weight fluctuates throughout the movie, as it did in real life, which really goes to show the lengths that Miles Teller (War Dogs (2016)) was willing to go through to get this story “right”. Teller was seen mostly as a comedic actor but when his talents were showcased in 2014’s Whiplash, perception changed. I truly feel that his role in that movie allowed others to reevaluate Teller’s talents. Many of those same traits of drive, determination and raw aggression are once again exhibited in Bleed for This. Ciarán Hinds (Closed Circuit (2013)) plays Angelo Pazienza, Vinny’s dad, and he’s a very passionate soul I might add. Katey Sagal (FX’s Sons of Anarchy) is strong matriarch of the family, no surprise there. Aaron Eckhart (My All-American (2015)) is really starting to settle into these wise teaching-type roles. One other honorable mention should go out to Ted Levine (USA’s Monk) because he was barely recognizable as Lou Duva, a well-known manager/trainer/promoter.
The actual spirit of the story of Vinny Pazienza is what sells Bleed for This. Seeing what he went through in order to get back to “regular status”, forget boxing, is truly amazing. Miles Teller does a great job capturing the essence of what type of person Vinny really is. My one gripe (well actually more of an unattainable wish) is that I wish Open Roads and The Weinstein Company could have come to some sort of an arrangement to where actor Edgar Ramírez who portrayed boxer Roberto Durán in Hands of Stone (2016) could have made a cameo here playing the same character. Oh well, a man dream I suppose.
Bleed for This isn’t an all out punch-fest of a boxing movie full of training montages and catchy tunes. Expect a more grounded, believable sports drama without the spectacular fanfare attached. This approach may hamper box office numbers but it does make for a solid experience. Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart make for a formidable one-two punch as this one enters ring ready to fight off the competition.