Teller and Eckhart hit hard in a gritty, but lacking boxing romp.
The fighting movie is an often tackled genre, rife with cliches and familiarity. That familiarity isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – do we really want a boxing film where they lose? Do we really want a film where the star nearly dies in a car crash? Well if that sounds like you’re cup of protein shake, check out Bleed for This.
The film tells the remarkable story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), who after defying the odds by winning the Junior Middleweight World Championship – having moved up two weight classes – breaks his neck in a car crash. From here, alongside coach Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), an unforgettable comeback begins.
After watching Bleed for This, you’ll likely be astonished that you’d never been aware of this tale before now. It’s an agonising, inspirational story – like most boxing films, admittedly – that’ll grip fans of the genre at the very least.
The fighting is important of course, and director Ben Younger effortlessly blends expertly choreographed bouts with occasional real-life TV footage of the real Pazmanian Devil. Not far in we see Vinny go toe-to-toe with Floyd’s Uncle Roger Mayweather. Now the fight itself is thrilling – this is the peak of Vinny’s cockiness. Then it starts to go wrong; then the score disappears; the sound of the audience fades – all we can hear are the punches. Feeling each jab, hook and uppercut; Younger shows a flair for the genre that’ll take him far.
However, for a film about a comeback, it takes an awful long time to begin. Not that seeing Vinny at the top of his game is unenjoyable, but you simply can’t immerse yourself in the tale until the inevitable happens. This awkwardly paced and placed beginning to the hard-hitting saga is a questionable choice.
Where the film doesn’t go wrong though is with its two leads. Teller, who has rarely missed a beat ever since his appearance as ‘Miles’ in Project X, especially in last year’s incredible Whiplash, brings a whole new layer to his versatile capabilities. Buffed up, charismatic, confident and likeable, his take on the legendary boxer is one he’ll be remembered and hopefully get some recognition for.
But, if anyone deserves some recognition, it’s Aaron Eckhart. This is the kind of performance where you’ll be watching it with your mate, and he’ll turn to you and say: “Here, you know that’s who played Two-Face?” and you’ll respond with “Bullshit”. It’s a compelling, truly exemplary and importantly near-unrecognisable performance that further proves Eckhart is a force to be reckoned with. Although, there’s a pitch to be heard for a drinking game where you drink a shot every time he says “Come on”.
The boxing drama may have a marvellous story, but the old boxing tropes sneak in; the montages; the rise and fall, and well, rise structure; dull, dirty gyms. Again, familiarity isn’t a terrible element, especially in something as sacred as the boxing genre. However, Younger seems to have both embraced cliches whilst trying not to look like it. This means the film hits nowhere near as hard as it should, making you feel mildly excited rather than straight up emotional towards the climax.
To sum it up…
Bleed for This is a tale of epic, unbelievable proportions, bolstered by two tremendous performances from Teller and Eckhart. Younger’s direction has some issues, and whilst it’s not as good as 2011’s Warrior, it’s certainly an entertaining two hours.
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Author: Cameron Frew