A boxing film normally contains a certain formula. Normally an American man who comes from a working-class background, who rises through the ranks to gain his weight class title. The story should be inspirational, with music suited to being in the gym or to run to. The character will normally confront a number obstacles, such as defeat, injury or personal loss, before a combination of at least one inspiring sport montage and a sheer force of will guides them back into the ring to face one last fight.
‘Bleed For This’ is the inspiring story of Vinny Pazienza a boxer from Rhode Island, who after winning his first lightweight boxing title is seriously injured from a car accident. We follow Vinny, played by Miles Teller, as he returns to fighting form. This follows the boxing formula closely but does so by focusing on making the best possible version of itself. ‘Bleed For this’ experiments in parts with the style of filmmaking and has a very authentic feel for this late 80’s early 90’s period owing to a fantastic costume department. The film really focuses on Vinny’s recovery rather than the actual fighting, providing a refreshing tone and a story for a wider audience.
I’ve never been a big boxing fan, there’s something about two people getting into a ring with one another, to osculate between beating each other and hugging one another which does not entice me. I do understand that it takes great strength, speed, determination and certainly a high tolerance of pain to box, but I would much rather watch Rugby for that. Thankfully this story focuses less on fighting, with only two big fights shown. Instead the film examines Vinny’s accident and recovery and thus allows the fights themselves to have more of an impact, pun intended.
Vinny Pazienza’s journey takes him from being a literal car crash victim to being back to fighting fit once more. Miles Teller needed to perform a similar metaphorical journey by playing Pazienza. In recent years, I have watched Teller rise through the ranks of stardom to display a promising range of characters. I first saw him star in the Footloose remake, then as a cameo in Project X before finally cementing in my mind his ability as an actor with his performance in ‘Whiplash’, the jazz film about a young drummer. Though it loaves me to even mention it, ‘Fantastic Four’ was a travesty of a film, it was miscast, poorly written and a confusing mess of a production that if certain stories are true, stem more from the director and production company than anything else. Teller needed something that would once again refine his acting ability into something with grit and flair. Admittedly I never saw ‘War Dogs’, but the trailer was enough for me to feel the tone of Teller’s role.
‘Bleed for this’ then is Teller’s reformation, his performance once again showed me his growing strength as an actor, particularly one whose acting is challenged by a large metal apparatus around his head. Teller does a great job of portraying a man frustrated with the card he has been dealt, determined to pick up his love of sport once more despite the odds and force his way back to fighting health. Each time that metal cage brushed against the car or a door frame I could not help but wince, evidence of Teller and Young’s ability to convey the fragility of the situation.
Now, I have a confession to make, I am not from Rhode Island. I know, shocking isn’t it. I raise this plot twist of a point, because I doubt I would know the difference between an authentic Rhode Island accent and poorly portrayed one. At least not in such a specific way that I would notice certain misplaced fluctuations or a poorly placed emphasise on certain syllables. So, from my own inexperienced perspective, I thought each cast member performed a fantastic and consistent representation of a Rhode Island accent. Again, please don’t hate me in my ignorance if you think this is the worst rendition of that accent you’ve ever heard. This specific accent is made even more impressive when you realise that Ciaran Hinds, who is probably best known as Mance Ryder from Game of Thrones, is from Northern Ireland. Ciaran plays Vinny’s father who is also his manager, his performance is good and a refreshing departure from his previous work that I have seen.
Louise, Vinny’s Mother, is played by Katey Sagal. Sagal is a fantastic actress in my eyes, having previously watched her in Sons of Anarchy, one of my all-time favourite TV Shows. Though it may entirely be her own choice, I desperately wanted to see more of her performance as her role here is quite simplistic as the loving worried mother.
Finally, and possibly the best performance of the entire film is that of Aaron Eckhart who plays Kevin Rooney, Vinny’s trainer, whom he and Teller appear to have good chemistry on screen. It did take me a moment or two to recognise Eckhart who underwent some physical changes for the role, presumably all through prosthetics and his own change in body shape such as a more hunched back.
Vinny is quite a public figure in the media, through his fights, and his own home footage videos showing his comeback. In fact, Vinny’s media presence is felt throughout this film, which Younger intelligently orchestrates by blending Vinny and Teller, using distance shots of the actual Vinny with Teller’s voice and close-ups. This removes any jarring effect that may have been produced when seeing both men and it is a credit to the editor’s skill that they are able to use material from both men quite smoothly.
OVERALL *** ‘Bleed for this’ is a good boxing film with heart and personality, lead by an impressive cast. Its only downfall is the predictability of the story.
RECOMMENDATION – If you are a fan of sports films then I do recommend watching, you will feel inspired.