Bleed for This review
Shall we get into sports again? When people think about boxing movies, they usually either turn to the Rocky series or Raging Bull. People love the underdog story and the world of boxing seems to filled with tough guys that are looking to fight as a way of living. It’s something that I could never do, but if someone wants to take several punches to the face for money, then good for them. Living the boxing story is one thing, but to make a movie about them is something else.
What makes boxing movies tough is that a lot of them tend to stick to the same story. They’re either about a guy who wants to box, or its about the boxer who had fallen from grace and want to get back up. How many times can you really tell that story? Sometimes, some of the biopics are filled with clichés as life itself has clichés. These elements are fine for an adaptation as long as the story can find a new way to use it. So when one boxer gets into a situation where is neck is broken and he manages to get back in the ring, how do you make that original? Lets see how Bleed for This does so.
In the mid eighties, boxer Vinny Paz (played by Miles Teller) is an arrogant, but successful world champion in the lightweight division who always strives to be the best. Like a lot of people from the Northeast, he comes from an Italian family who has supported him through his career. Training him is Kevin Rooney (played by Aaron Eckhart) who seems to be going though his own problems of alcoholism. After defeating the world champion in the middleweight division, Vinny gets into a horrific car crash.
When he wakes up, he finds his neck in a brace with his back in a straight position. His doctors inform him that he suffered a serious neck fracture and that he’s be lucky enough to walk again let alone fight. He’s sent home after they fit his skull with a halo brace, keeping his head straight and his neck upright. Against his doctors orders, he begins a workout regiment hoping that he’ll continue to fight after he’s healed. He even talks Kevin into being his trainer again. Unlike before, his family wants nothing to do with Vinny possibly killing himself.
Is Bleed for This another cliché boxing story? Well…yea, but there are elements that do make it good on it’s own merit. I kind of feel bad as Vinny Paz’s story is extraordinary, but this had little way out of seeming a lot like a TV movie with it’s structure. A lot of the previews have made this mistake of skipping forward to show that he heals, though I think most people would have already assumed that. I kept thinking back to The Wrestler, which really put the odds against the athlete. Here, the stakes are present, but we’re not experiencing them (why couldn’t we see more of Vinny in the pain he’s suffering?).
Now let’s get to the good stuff. Miles Teller is well casted as Vinny Paz who seems to match in looks and personality so much that the film plays real life footage of the boxer against the film. He may have had the tougher job, but the best performance goes to Aaron Eckhart, who I got a sense that he really understood his trainer character. We’ve seen the grizzled trainer before, but something about Eckhart’s delivery made him interesting. If your pretty forgiving of the fact this movie uses the sports cliché of the comeback, then you’ll probably like this story.
I’ll give this three and a half halo casts out of five. For two hours, I felt like that I got an entertaining story. Whether you’ll do the same depends on how forgiving you are to seeing this story over again. Make your decision and see if its worth getting in the ring.