By Adam Ray Palmer
My final review from the 60th London Film Festival comes courtesy of the legendary boxing true story of Vinny ‘Paz’ Pazienza.
Bleed For This is directed by Ben Younger and stars Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart and Ciarán Hinds. It’s also executive produced by some bloke called Martin Scorsese.
Bleed For This will be released on 4th December by Icon Films.
Miles Teller plays the ‘Pazmanian Devil’ who was a boxer in the late 80s and early 90s. Bleed For This tells the remarkable true story of how Vinny tries to overcome a terrible accident when he suffers a broken neck in a car accident. His severe injury happens at the peak of his career so mentally he isn’t ready to quit. This is a story of how his love of boxing and wanting to fight again got him through his recovery.
The story begins in 1988 where we see Vinny lose a bout and ends up in hospital. His trainer believes it’s best to hang up his gloves but Vinny thinks otherwise. Pazienza finds a new trainer in Aaron Eckhart’s Kevin Rooney who decides to move Vinny up two weight classes to find more opponents. This decision pays off with a world title win, but then comes crashing down in a car accident – literally.
The bulk of the film is where we see Vinny’s resilience and mental strength tested on his road to recovery as he is adamant he will return to the ring. Even with limited support of his family and coach, an astonishing tale ensues that climaxes, a little over-fictionalised, with a heart-warming finale.
Bleed For This offers something for all. It’s a decent boxing movie, an entertaining story and at times an emotional drama. Many people can relate without even having an interest in boxing. It’s very much a narrative of the hero overcoming adversity. Although, the film is a little contrived in a way as the film is very ‘Hollywood’, even it if the use of handheld cameras in certain scenes try to give it some indie roots.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not the best boxing movie ever, but it’s eye-opening. It makes you think how some humans are particularly special. I don’t necessarily mean Pazienza was an exceptionally talented boxer (he was quite good) but I mean his comeback from being a write-off (apologies for the car pun) to being a winner again.
Ben Younger does a great job with this film. It’s always difficult to make a biopic because so many people cast eyes over stories before launching projects. He has a lot to work with but I’m glad he focuses on Vinny’s recovery rather than anything else.
I’ve seen a lot of praise for Miles Teller for his role as Vinny and I agree with it. He has the perfect concoction of arrogance and niggling insecurities that a lot of boxers have. It’s the latter parts in Bleed For This where Teller really ups his game. When he must struggle with his movement after the ‘halo surgery’, it really looks like Younger made Miles do method acting. Teller is fully believable and you will for him to succeed.
A special mention for Aaron Eckhart too; he has done a few good performances in his career that have probably gone unnoticed and Bleed For This shouldn’t be another to add to that list. I think Aaron is so close to stealing the limelight in several scenes and deserves acclaim.
On the whole, Bleed For This won’t get all boxing fans jumping for Joy, but it might be inviting to a new kind of audience with its more tender side to the narrative. It reminds me a lot of Southpaw, I think people could harshly judge this film to be just another boxing movie; but like Gyllenhaal’s picture – it’s a lot more than that.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
Bleed For This will be released in the UK on 4th December 2016 – certificate 15