Only a matter of time before we get the Butterbean silver screen treatment. Boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) has amassed much fame and fortune as a fighter. What he doesn’t have in pure skill he has in pure heart. That heart has led him to hold two belts across two different weight classes.
Shortly after winning the junior middleweight world title, Pazienza is on the receiving end of a vicious car accident, rendering him bedridden and his spine in a bad place. “The Pazmanian Devil” is unlikely to fight again, and walking again is a 50/50 proposition with the procedure he goes under. However, this procedure, which requires him to wear a bulky steel device called a Halo screwed into his head, is a procedure that could bring Paz back into the ring, despite everyone’s insistence that he give up these dreams. But he’s a fighter, and it is impossible to keep a fighter down for a 10 count.
OK, so maybe we are still a ways away from the Butterbean biopic. But it is quite clear that even if the sport of boxing is in a steady popularity decline, Hollywood’s is still very interested in making movies about the sweet science. Outside of a slim few, one knows what they’re going to get when viewing a boxing movie. Bleed for This clinches to the well-worn boxing movie formula.
Rise, fall, adversity, rise. Flip the order in whichever way; as long as it ends with rise, that is the general plot of boxing movie, whether fictional or true. No different is done in Bleed for This. However, the script, penned by director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) does benefit from this actually happening. Though conventional, it does it does resonate a little simply because it was real life, an actual individual went through this and persevered through it. And albeit rushed in a few spots, the script feels pretty true to life, respecting and not embellishing Paz’s story.
There are many ways for boxing judges to score rounds. One way is to look at the round in three parts, as it consists of three minutes most often. That’s how yours truly looked at Bleed for This. It’s got a solid, if unspectacular, start with a decent fight between Paz and Roger Mayweather. The final act features some good heartfelt moments and a well-staged boxing bout between Roberto Duran (how cool would it have been if Hands of Stone somehow connected with this?) and Pazienza. But a good chunk in the middle is a little of a slog to get through once Vinny comes home from the surgery up until he decides to go against doctor’s orders. Another issue of the screenplay is that Paz isn’t all that distinguishable from other fighters, from a character level, pretty one note. He’s got a fighting, never say no spirit…but so do the bulk of fighters.
The criticism of Paz’s slim character isn’t an indictment on the job Miles Teller does here. Rather it just makes one wish that there was more Teller could explore of the famed boxer’s character. From what he is given, Teller looks the part as a fighter and sells the physical pain and the dogged resolve it took to come back from this career and life-threatening injury. Aaron Eckhart is fun to watch, simultaneously offering a dash of levity along with with sincerity for the well-being of his boxer. Steady hands in Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, and Ted Levine are present and support the feature when asked to.
Bleed for This sports a few good jabs and straights, but not enough of a sustained combination to contend for the top spot of boxing film heavyweights. Don’t expect knockout power.
Photo credits go to awfulannouncing.com, boxingnewsandviews.com, and soafanatic.com
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