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Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This (2016) movie poster Bleed for This

Theatrical Release: November 18, 2016 / Running Time: 117 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Ben Younger / Writers: Ben Younger (story & screenplay); Angelo Pizzo, Pippa Bianco (story)

Cast: Miles Teller (Vinny Pazienza), Aaron Eckhart (Kevin Rooney), Ciarán Hinds (Angelo Pazienza), Katey Sagal (Louise Pazienza), Ted Levine (Lou Duva), Jordan Gelber (Dan Duva), Amanda Clayton (Doreen Pazienza), Christine Evangelista (Ashley)


Many great movies have been made about boxers. Bleed for This isn't one of them.

This film tells the story of but one of the many boxing champions you've never heard of. We open in 1988, with Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza (Miles Teller) of Providence, Rhode Island hitting the stationary bike
hard covered in Saran wrap in an effort to sweat off pounds to meet the 140-pound limit at his imminent weigh-in. He does, but still loses a fight to Roger Mayweather. Afterwards, in a televised interview, Vinny's manager (Ted Levine) says he should retire.

But Vinny is no quitter. With his proud father Angelo (Ciarán Hinds) still in his corner, Vinny tracks down Mike Tyson's former trainer, alcoholic, beer-bellied Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), who decides to move the Italian-American fighter up two weight classes. It's a risky move, but one that Kevin convinces Vinny is in his interests. His wisdom seems to be right when Vinny wins a title bout.

Then, Vinny gets into a head-on car collision. He is severely injured. He has broken his neck and his spine is at risk of being severed. Vinny questions his doctor's preferred course of action to perform a fusion surgery that should guarantee he'll walk again. Instead, Vinny opts for a halo, named because it involves a crown being screwed into his skull atop a stabilizing brace that will surround his neck for the near-future.

Vinny Pazienza (Miles Tiller) asks Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) to become his new trainer in "Bleed for This."

While wishing him the best, everyone assumes that Vinny will never fight again. Kevin is the only one bold enough to tell him. But, like I said, Vinny is no quitter. He begins training in secret down in his basement, eventually getting Kevin to join him and videotape some of it. Vinny wants nothing more than to fight again. We know this because the movie doesn't reveal any depth or interests in this protagonist. He appreciates strip clubs and casino blackjack, but neither of those exactly seems like a post-boxing career. So, Vinny gives his all to box again and though no one wants to fight him, he moves up another weight class and lands an over $1 million match with Roberto Duran, the Panamanian fighter who got his own biopic a few months ago in Hands of Stone.

Writer-director Ben Younger has apparently seen the recent films of David O. Russell. Bleed for This emulates The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, serving up a loud, eccentric Italian-American East Coast family. Russell's films are flavorful and compelling. Bleed for This is forced and phony. The entire principal cast appears to be shooting for Oscars and show us this in the most obvious ways possible, from Eckhart's ridiculous body transformation to everyone's over-the-top accents. Mom (Katey Sagal) prays by candles and religious icons while her son fights, never watching. Vinny's sister's fiancé is really into elephant figurines. None of it feels authentic. When Younger uses archival footage from the real Vinny's fights and appearances, he doesn't even attempt to recreate the material, instead allowing the real fighter, who doesn't look much like the mustachioed and earring-wearing Teller, to be seen (or partially obscured by a lamp reflection).

That seems like a lazy approach, but nothing about Bleed for This strikes you as any more thoughtful or original. Pazienza perseveres, but we're never given any great reason to care. I mean overcoming hardship is never a bad thing, but there is never a convincing argument for this story being told now and in this generic fashion.

Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) fights with both his father Angelo (Ciarán Hinds) and his trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) in his corner.

Bleed is the third film in sixteen years for Younger, who seemed like something of a wunderkind on his debut, 2000's Boiler Room made at age 26, but has hardly worked since his follow-up, the 2005 Meryl Streep dramedy Prime, wowed nobody. He was able to attract talent on this picture, from executive producer Martin Scorsese
to the in-demand Teller and Eckhart, who elsewhere have appeared in two of 2016's better films. Though opening in November and being just one of two films that distributor Open Road Films, responsible for reigning Best Picture Oscar winner Spotlight, is mounting an awards campaign for, Bleed for This is nothing special, unless you find caricature special.

The film even misses an opportunity to do something interesting by getting Edgar Ramírez to reprise his lead role of Roberto Duran for the character's brief appearance here. It's too bad that Younger and Hands of Stone's Jonathan Jakubowicz couldn't have collaborated the way that Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh did to have Michael Keaton play the same character in their separate Elmore Leonard adaptations of the late 1990s. A Ramírez cameo here would have been one of the most interesting things about this film. Instead, the two movies will go down as soon forgotten boxing films that, despite some obvious efforts and passion, failed to find audiences in theaters or attract any serious prestige.

Related Reviews:
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Boxing: Hands of StoneThe FighterCreedRockyMillion Dollar BabyGrudge MatchSouthpaw
Miles Teller: War DogsFantastic FourDivergent | Aaron Eckhart: SullyMy All-AmericanErasedOlympus Has FallenThe Rum Diary
Silver Linings PlaybookJoyInvincibleFoxcatcherHere Comes the Boom

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Reviewed November 18, 2016.

Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 Open Road Films, Magna Entertainment, Sikella Productions, Verdi Productions, Bruce Cohen Productions, Younger Than You Productions, and The Solution Entertainment Group.
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