Boxing has inspired some truly incredible films over the years. From biographies of real fighters such as Ali and Raging Bull to fictional drama’s such as Rocky and Million Dollar Baby, the fascination with fighters and the physical and mental obstacles they face makes for great narratives.
The latest addition to the large selection of fighter biopics comes in the form of Bleed for This which follows champion boxer Vinny Pazienza at the top of his game before tragedy strikes. Despite starring an on-form Miles Teller and great support from Aaron Eckhart, the film fails to create anything that sets it apart from the standard boxer flick.
Vinny (Teller), known as The Pazmanian Devil, has already earned himself a championship belt in boxing. With his last match lost, he is beginning to lose momentum in his career. When introduced to trainer Kevin Rooney (Eckhart) he is persuaded to advance his weight class and really challenge himself. As his boxing becomes better than ever another title seems on the cards until a car accident potentially paralyses him. Although there are countless of warnings from doctors and family, Vinny continues his training and aims to one day fight again.
The film is based on Pazienza’s real life story. Written and directed by Ben Younger who had previously directed Boiler Room and Prime, the film begins when Vinny is already an established boxer. On meeting trainer Rooney, he moves into a different weight division and becomes a better fighter. Vinny makes for a charismatic, if stubborn and arrogant lead. His determination to succeed is the driving force of his character as well as the narrative. The film moves at good pace and the world of 1980’s boxing is brilliantly recreated through direction and use of archive footage.
As with any respectable boxing film Vinny hits a huge obstacle in his life and career when he is in the accident. With the prospect of neither walking nor fighting on the cards, he enlists the help of his no nonsense coach to train him back to health and gain another shot at the world title.
If the plot of the film sounds familiar it is because this is the plot of most boxer/athlete films. The film is a good watch and propelled by good performances and direction but this is all too familiar territory to really stand out. The film in no way breaks from the standard codes and conventions of most fighter based narratives. In this the film, despite its strengths, becomes very predictable.
Visually the film is well directed with stand out fight sequences that are reminiscent of Rocky. The energy and thrill of the ring are contrasts by the sequences of Vinny alone wearing his halo brace. The character goes on a real development making him attractive to audiences.
Teller plays the electric, eccentric and egotistical Paz brilliantly. The driving force of the film, his portrayal turns the character from an arrogant play-boy to a determined athlete with ease and in either form makes him engaging.
Eckhart has physically transformed himself to play trainer Rooney. His chiselled blonde good looks swapped for the chubby, bald appearance here. Yet he gives a grounded, understated performance as the coach who helps Vinny win back a shot of his dream.
Despite a strong performance from Teller as boxer Paz, Bleed for This fails to bring anything new or original to the Boxer overcomes adversity troupe. Still, it is an entertaining biopic with electric fighting sequences and further proof of Teller’s acting abilities.
Bleed for This is out 2nd Nov