Starring Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Ron Pearlman, Naomi Watts,
You are thinking, not another boxing movie. But this one has a slightly different spin, it’s about the real life inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. If that doesn’t interest you enough, then Chuck, despite its dedicated lead performance – from the forever supporting actor Schreiber, will bore you. Producing and co-writing, this is clearly a passion project for Schreiber who even cast his ex in an ironic role as the woman the loser boxer eventually ends up with. Chuck Wepner is the same pompous, drug addicted, womanizing boxing figure we have seen splashed across endless boxing films for the last four decades. There isn’t enough originality in the script or production value to elevate Chuck beyond a standard boxing movie.
“You are the white guy”, his agent tells him. In the early 1970’s, New Jersey Heavyweight Champion Chuck Wepner (Schreiber) was the only white guy in the top ten. For that reason only, he was selected to fight Muhamad Ali. There was never a chance of the Bleeder from Bayonne beating Ali, Chuck knew that, but regardless, this was his moment of fame. The highly-televised event, the fame and money that came with it, combined with being Stallone’s inspiration for the Oscar winning film, it ruined Chuck. Like every small-town guy who dreamed of the big time, he went overboard on everything, losing what little he had.
There isn’t enough originality in the script or production value to elevate Chuck beyond a standard boxing movie.
Canadian director Philippe Falardeau fails to present Chuck in a way that stands apart from the piles of boxing flicks, both classic and modern. The narration from Schreiber during Chuck’s embarrassing fights, is meant to be ironic and funny, but isn’t. Sympathy or empathy for our leading character is hard to come by in a script that follows bullet point events in Wepner’s life, and even those are stretched to meet the minimum feature film running time. Every time Moss (Truth) is on screen she energizes the drama between destructive husband and wife. Later, Watts (Demolition) as the redheaded barmaid with backbone and insight, does the same. I admire Schreiber, I always have, since his villainous role in the Scream trilogy, but he just isn’t leading actor material.
Chuck isn’t really a boxing film, there are few scenes inside a ring. It’s a destructive character story that allows Schreiber more screen time than he’s gotten in an entire career. Morgan Spector plays Stallone in a few scenes, and while he doesn’t overdo the impersonation, the film is careful to always keep the scene about Chuck. The film’s single most important scene occurs near the end, Chuck is bailed out of jail by a surprising figure in his life. Inside the car, we finally get something that’s touching, but it’s too late. If you haven’t been burdened and over saturated through the years watching every single boxing flick, Chuck might hold some value, otherwise it’s a bore.
Despite Schreiber’s dedicated performance, there isn’t much to see here.