Bleed For This: Underdog Boxing Drama Feels All Too Predictable
Depicting the life of champion fighter, Vinny ‘Paz’ Pazienza, who returned to the boxing ring after suffering a devastating spine injury, Bleed For This is a film you’ve probably seen before. Just like many other boxing movies before it, Bleed For This stays close to the underdog formula, but with very little substance or emotional depth, failing to deliver land the right blows and make a connection to audience.
Written and directed by Boiler Room director, Ben Younger, the story is set in 1988 and Vinny ‘The Pazamanian Devil’ Pazienza (Teller) already having gained some popularity after winning two world title fights. After taking a beating from one Roger Mayweather (the uncle of Roy Jr.) for the lightweight championship, he is advised by his trainer Lou Duva (Levine) to give up boxing for good. However, the feverishly stubborn boxer refuses to do so and soon finds himself teamed up with Mike Tyson’s former trainer, Kevin Rooney (Eckhart), who manages to convince Vinny to take a chance and move up a weight class.
Unfortunately, when a car accident leaves Vinny with a broken neck with the possibility of a permanent paralysis that will undoubtedly end his career, his boxing dreams are put to rest. Determined to beat the odds Vinny, along with Kevin’s help, soon begins training and preparing to return to the ring in order to fight one of his biggest, and most dangerous, fights yet.
Taking on a worn out and familiar approach to a premise that has been envisioned, told, rendered, tweaked and then retold again so many times over, Bleed For This struggles to elevate itself past the standard storytelling tropes and snuggles itself in predictable familiarity from beginning to end. In an effort to get to know our leading man a little better – and provide him with some sort of a backstory – Younger chooses to spend much of his focus on Vinny’s life at home with father and boxing gym owner, Angelo (Hinds struggling with his Rhode Island accent) and his God-fearing mother Louise (Sagal). We also get to see a string of women that pass through his arms – any real romantic attachments are not explored – -and we even receive a front row seat to his ongoing gambling problems. It’s all there, but it’s still a little hard to invest.
A bulked-up Teller brings a stubborn intensity to his performance and a seemingly arrogant determination to the role of a man who is not particularly easy to love. It’s a great physical performance and the actor manages to hold his own, even through a series of predictable fighting montages. However, there is no excitement there and everything about the movie feels a little safe and flat.