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Title :Bleed for This (2016)
Release : 18 November 2016 (USA)
Genre : Biography, Drama, Sport
Language: English | French
Stars :Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal
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Bleed for This (2016) trailer
Bleed for This (2016) review
For its first 40 minutes or so, “Bleed for This,” the “based on a true story” boxing picture directed by Ben Younger and starring Miles Teller, follows the sports-movie-comeback-narrative playbook with extreme fidelity. It would be tiresome were it not for the casual energy of the filmmaking. Mr. Teller plays Vinny Pazienza, the Rhode Island-born-and-bred boxer who, as the film opens in 1988, seems a bit feckless. Staying up too late in Las Vegas the night before a big fight, he goes on to lose that match. His third in a row. His own manager announces in a televised interview that the fighter should hang up the towel.
Instead, the Pazmanian Devil, as Mr. Pazienza is known, begins working with a hard-drinking trainer, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), also washed up by conventional wisdom. The two defy expectations, handily taking a title belt two weight classes above which the boxer had previously fought. All’s well that ends well — except the movie is not even halfway over.
But then comes a car accident. The fighter’s neck is fractured, and he’s in danger of never walking again. Given that Mr. Pazienza went on to, among other things, fight and beat Roberto Durán twice after his recovery, the comeback narrative certainly gains in dimension here.
For all that, “Bleed for This,” which Mr. Younger wrote from a story credited to Pippa Bianco and Angelo Pizzo, plays with the factual record a bit. For one, the film makes it look as if his first fight with Mr. Durán was his first after recovering from his injury, which required him to wear a metal halo ring and neck brace for six months. (Among the delightful features of the halo are the four screws that go directly into the patient’s skull.) That time line is off, but the change certainly heightens the drama. (Earlier this year the far inferior boxing movie “Hands of Stone” told Mr. Durán’s story, but it did not include his encounters with Mr. Pazienza.)
Mr. Teller first plays his boxer as a hardheaded, generally likable mook — a bit of a bad boy, but over all an emblem of the integrity of the working-class athlete. After the accident, the portrayal deepens, and delivers substantial emotional dividends without yielding to facile sentimentality. As his trainer, Mr. Eckhart is similarly committed. Mr. Younger’s direction is focused and sometimes disarming — scenes that at first seem like slice-of-life digressions, such as a postaccident surprise birthday party for the protagonist, lead to unexpected mini-epiphanies.
Given the conventions of the genre, Mr. Younger’s affectionate depiction of close-knit Italian-American life in Rhode Island is not surprising, but his devotion to the conscientious portrayal of the fundamentals of the so-called sweet science is refreshing. This is a boxing movie that actually gets boxing.
In a sense, the movie’s title is the most unfortunate element of the enterprise: It is not only a little off-putting, but it’s also inaccurate, particularly in its masochistic implications. The movie makes it clear that Mr. Pazienza doesn’t box to suffer, he suffers to box: The story is about moving past the pain, even the excruciating pain the fiercely anti-drink-and-drugs boxer endures when he insists on having his halo brace removed without anesthesia.With their scrupulous but unobtrusive attention to pertinent details, Mr. Younger, Mr. Teller and the rest of the cast make “Bleed for This” more than an inspiring version of Mr. Pazienza’s story; they make it a genuinely interesting one.