Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Movie Review #523: "Bleed for This" (2016)

Director: Ben Younger
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
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The story of boxing champion Vinny Pazienza's (Miles Teller) comeback from a broken neck resulting from a terrible car accident.

"Bleed For This" is written and directed by Ben Younger, based on the true life story of former boxing champion Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza, played by Miles Teller. The main focus of the film is on Pazienza's horrific car accident directly following him obtaining the WBA light middleweight boxing title. This accident left him with a broken neck, as well as a long, hard road back from an injury that almost put an end to his career and unable to walk.

This is a fairly by-the-book inspirational sports story. The acting is very good as Miles Teller puts on a mostly solid performance, donning a svelte boxer's body in what was clearly an effort to get him award recognition, losing and gaining weight to display his before and after "accident" appearance. The true standouts for us, however, are in the supporting cast, including Aaron Eckhart and his portrayal of the alcoholic has-been trainer Kevin Rooney, and Ciarán Hinds and his role as Vinny's father Angelo Pazienza. Eckhart has the capacity to be a fantastic actor when he wants to be, so it puzzles us when he takes roles like "I, Frankenstein," and though we don't know much about Hinds, he is excellent here as a concerned father who helps his son after his accident, a father who has had enough of being part of his son's injury-prone career.

Audiences love a triumphant return, and Pazienza's against all odds comeback from a perceived career-ending injury is compelling to say the least. Sports films live and die by these types of narratives with built-in drama. We personally love underdog stories...when they are well made. The main flaw in "Bleed for This" comes from its pacing. It is abhorrently slow at times and feels much longer than it actually is. There is also quite a bit of fudging when it comes to facts and details surrounding Vinny's actual career as the rounds, endings of fights, and judges scorecards are changed frequently for dramatic license. Also, the date of his supposed comeback was omitted in the movie, something we noticed right away because the dates of his previous fights had been purposefully included. This is because the fight showcased and depicted as his first post-injury bout actually took place years after Vinny's real comeback. The only reason for this change is because Roberto Duran is a far more well known, higher caliber boxer than the guy Vinny first fought after his injury. We understand dramatic effect being in play, but the degree Younger goes to to change many details about a true story is a bit bothersome, especially for boxing fans, which we used to be. Finally, there is also an odd choice to mix footage of the actual Pazienza with Teller's Pazienza (sometimes in the same frame), which is jarring and took us completely out of the film. We feel a director should go all in or or nothing at all when it comes to past footage of a person, and if the need to use actual footage is far too great and must be implemented, save it for the film's credit roll, or simply make a documentary.

Overall, "Bleed for This" had a lot of promise, but is ultimately a basic sports melodrama with some jarring behind-the-scenes decisions and some excellent in front of the camera performances.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~64%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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