Bleed for This
Starring Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Ciarán Hinds, Ted Levine, Katy Segal,
Ben Younger’s boxing film Bleed for This is not an awards contender despite debuting at Toronto’s film festival. While the best actor race might be a bit on the weak side, it’s not weak enough to include Teller (Whiplash, Fantastic Four), who continues to struggle for his place in the American box office market. Ben Younger said at the Austin Film Festival Bleed for This would stand apart from other boxing films. In fact, it’s just the opposite, all it does is borrow and take from more successful ones. If that wasn’t enough, this story of Vinny Pazienza, “one of the greatest comebacks of all time,” even features boxer Roberto Durán who we just saw get the big screen treatment a few months ago in Hands of Stone, which coincidentally also didn’t resonate with audiences.
It was a family business with Angelo Pazienza (Hinds) supporting his son Vinny (Teller) in and out of the ring. He was a world champion lightweight in the late 80’s, but a near fatal car crash left his neck broken. Vinney refused the recommended neck fusion, opting for a far riskier halo surgery, which leaves him almost immobile, just as his career in boxing had reached another gear. Kevin Rooney (Eckhart) trainer for some of the world’s best fighters, had taken Vinny from lightweight champion to light middle weight champion before the accident. Rooney balks and refuses the idea Vinny can ever box again, but the young Italian’s persistence and determination wins him over. “I don’t know what’s worse, to watch you kill yourself or help you do it.”
All it does is borrow and take from more successful boxing films.
Similar to Durán, Vinny was not the most humble boxer out there. Similar to Micky Ward in The Fighter, there is a strong sense of family here that play a big part in all Vinny’s decisions. Like Cinderella Man, this is a comeback from a life threatening injury. Younger (Prime, Boiler Room), who isn’t known for great films, doomed his film when he said “you will see why it’s different” because it’s not. I worry Younger, like many other filmmakers don’t watch a lot of other movies. While Teller, Eckhart and Hinds sport some wacky hairdos, funny accents and moderately impressive performance, nothing stands out here. Bleed for This (there is hardly any blood in the movie, so not sure why this title represents this story) misses opportunities on the adverting and marketing. The best moments in the drama revolve around the second act, where Vinny is confined in the skull screwed halo.
It’s certainly a film that shines a light on persistence and pain tolerance (one scene you will remember is when they remove the screws), but it never offers cinematic quality we can’t find elsewhere. As I continue to write about the two or three boxing films we have every year, the genre is tired. Some snazzy editing in the final triumphant ending can’t save it from the monotony that came prior. Bleed for This isn’t a family friendly film, it’s going to be difficult finding an audience for this one outside of the Teller fans and sports enthusiasts. The women in the film are poorly utilized; either portrayed as weak pushovers like the mother (Segal) or the various girlfriends and strippers Vinny comes in contact with.
Not worth bleeding, fighting or paying for.