Among the boxing movie genre, Bleed for This does not stand out, and that feels unfortunate since it has, at its core, perhaps one of the greatest comeback stories ever.
Boxer Vinnie Pazienza was a world champion when he was involved in a horrific automobile accident that broke his neck. Instead of having neck fusion surgery that would have ended his career, he chose to have Halo surgery, which was a circular metal device that was screwed into his skull with metal screws, to allow his body to heal on its own. It was a severe risk, but Pazienza couldn’t see his life outside of the boxing ring.
Pazienza (Miles Teller) works diligently to fight his way back inside the squared circle, overcoming unbelievable physical odds.
The problem here is this film does not do a great job with the source material.
After seeing this movie, I could not place my finger on what it was about Bleed for This that was bugging me, but there was definitely something. I did not hate this movie, but the story just did not seem compelling enough, which is astounding.
Add to the fact that the film boasted a brilliant performance from Aaron Eckhart as well known boxing trainer Kevin Rooney, this film should have been a huge hit.
Miles Teller was, at best, okay here. He did not come near the highlight of his career (Whiplash) as this boxer. Another issue was that the film itself felt like it was split into two parts. The first part was Pazienza coming back after falling into a slump and moving up two weight classes to box. This was the first half of the film and was dealt with fully before the accident that nearly cost him his life, which was the second half of the film. I kind of thought that was what this film should have focused on.
I found much of the early part of this movie boring, and maybe that was why it did not feel right.
There was also some undertones of corruption implied in the film, including a weird interview with Teller, as Pazienza, that seemed to indicate that there was more to the world of boxing than what we normally see. Considering we did not see any of that (with the possible exception of Ted Levine playing the slimy Lou Duva) the ending felt tagged on to the wrong movie.
There really isn’t anything new here or special here or inspiring here, despite it being a tremendously inspiring real life story. It feels as if this movie lost an opportunity to become one of the year’s best biopics, but now it is just another boxing movie, like Hands of Stone (the Roberto Duran film from earlier in the year- Duran (Edwin Rodriguez) who appears in this film as well.
The film felt like it took forever, and I was checking the time several moments throughout.