Bleed For This Review

Bleed for This (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

Director: Ben Younger
Writers: Ben Younger (screenplay),  Ben Younger (story)
Stars: Miles Teller,  Aaron Eckhart,  Katey Sagal

Bleed For This is a movie based on the courageous and resilient real life experiences of boxer Vinny Pazienza.

Pazienza (Miles Teller) was the World Champion Boxer who was involved in a near fatal car accident causing severe spinal damage and left not knowing whether he’d be able to walk again afterwards.Rather than let it defeat him, Pazienza aimed to get back in the ring, setting in motion one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history ever. Pazienza said the thing that frightened him the most was giving up, because it was so easy to do.

The biggest draw of “Bleed For This” are its performances, particularly given by Miles Teller (Footloose 2011, Fantastic Four 2015). He never loses the sharpness of Pazienza, even when he faces a life without boxing and turns him into such a remarkable character.

Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen) having his head shaved back and adding a few pounds portrays Kevin Rooney the former trainer to Mike Tyson who is now the tired cliché of the boxing trainer. To be honest the writing for the character is never up to par, which makes his performance seem a little overzealous. But to be fair I enjoyed the onscreen pairing of Teller and Eckhart as his trainer, Rooney and felt there was a good relationship in their scenes together.

Ciarán Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Frozen) playing the tough love father brilliantly and Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Futurama) although under-utilised delivers a fine performance as Vinny’s mother. If you are familiar with the work of both Hinds and Sagal I think we can all agree that their almost unrecognisable much like Eckhart. Other supporting roles with Ted Levine (Shutter Island, Monk, Ray Donovan) and Jordan Gelber (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Boardwalk Empire) play their part as boxing promoters Lou and Dan Duva who basically pick Vinny up and put him down in a typical promotor fashion whenever they see or don’t see an opportunity to make money off the boxer.

One of the best aspects of this movie is by Ben Younger (Boiler Room, Prime) the Director (who up to this point only has a handful of directorial credits to his name) manages to capture the emotion that Pazienza is going through and my only gripe is the pacing during the recovery part I felt was slightly rushed compared to the first 30-40 minutes that introduced us to the characters at a nice pace.

I felt the script lets him down a little just after the car accident happens and the movie kind of skims past Pazienza’s recovery, which I felt should have been more in depth and more the focus on the movie. But as I previously mentioned that’s just nitpicking on my part as Younger still manages to capture the emotional struggle Pazienza is going through. Younger chooses to focus on the man mostly outside the ring and how driven an individual he was to get back to his best in the ring against the odds, physically and mentally.

Younger also delivers some energetic fighting sequences to be fair, using quick edits and excellent sound mixing to almost feel like you’re taking the punches at times. However, the moment that would have the audience viewing uncomfortably would be when Vinny has the metal halo removed from his head six months after the accident. Younger manages to capture in sight and sound how excruciating this would have been for Pazienza and especially as the boxer insisted on no anaesthetic during the procedure and believe me the screws in his head where in deep.

If you’re a fan of boxing films, “Bleed For This” is a film you should see. and if you aren’t a big fan of boxing films I wouldn’t dismiss it entirely because there is plenty to admire in this portrayal of one of the most inspirational comebacks in sporting history.

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