In Ben Youngs’ true life boxing drama Bleed For This, Miles Teller gives another strong performance after successful recent turns in War Dogs and Whiplash. Lyndon Wells takes a closer look…
The true yet seemingly derivative story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), a junior welterweight boxer who against the odds won the junior middleweight championship after his trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) moved him up two weight classes. He then went on defy the odds even further when he decided to defend his belt after breaking his neck.
The sports film is its own genre and the boxing film is a unique and popular sub-genre within it. This conventional and convenient boxing tale ticks all the expected genre tropes, a Rocky Balboa-like amiable yet flawed central character, a familiar rise-fall-return structure complete with intense training montages in dirty gyms, ring-corner inspirations, bruises and an abundance of perspiration. However, an apparent lack of originality doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of enjoyment and as is often said truth is stranger than fiction.
Miles Teller continues to impress post Whiplash with a more muscular type of perspiration-layered performance and the physical difference is easy to see. His portrayal of Vinny ‘Paz’ Pazienza carries the film to a higher level. He is in equal parts determined and reckless, Teller’s face is perfect for the role complete with his scarred features that add to the character’s authenticity. He is at his best when paired with the equally reckless trainer, Aaron Eckhart, looking like you have never seen him before. He plays trainer Kevin Rooney – overweight and balding – a man facing his own demons who forms a formidable double act with Teller.
Director Ben Youngs shows some of his flair last seen in his debut Boiler Room with a nice use of news-like footage and intense close-up of landing punches. The boxing doesn’t have the visual attraction of Coogler’s Creed, but uses sound and editing masterfully – the ringing when Paz takes a big blow adds aesthetic punch while flashes of previous scenes motivate Paz in his final showdown. The film therefore attempts to find a unique angle on this well-worn genre.
Youngs also includes enjoyable moments of humour that add levity to the drama. It’s not as po-faced as Jake Gyllenhall’s recent Southpaw but not as dramatically impressive as David O’Russell’s The Fighter. There are unexpected details to this film that add a nice quirky edge, like learning of Paz’s brother-in-law’s ceramic elephant fetish.
Yes, it’s a true story that appears derivative but there is plenty to enjoy especially Teller’s and Eckhart’s performance but it does lack the second viewing enhanced enjoyment of the likes of Creed and The Fighter.
Written by Lyndon Wells
Directed by: Ben Younger
Written by: Ben Younger
Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, Ted Levine
Released: 2016 | Genre: Sports
Country: USA | IMDB
Top 10 Films reviewed Bleed For This on Blu-ray courtesy of ICON Entertainment. The film was released in the UK on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Platforms March 27, 2017