Bleed for This
Unremarkable road-to-redemption boxing drama, with Miles Teller as real-life champ Vinny Pazienza
Miles Teller stars in a workmanlike boxing and redemption drama based on the real-life story of pugilist Vinny Pazienza, a poor, exploited kid from Rhode Island who overcame many travails to become a champion, suffered a devastating tragedy and fought another kind of battle to reclaim his life. Ciarán Hinds and Aaron Eckhart co-star, respectively, as Vinny's domineering father Angelo and trainer Kevin Rooney, who helped Vinny make perhaps the most remarkable comeback in boxing history. So far, so good.
Presumably boxing movies keep getting made because actors can't resist combining buffing-up and bleeding with personal demons and relationship drama. Writer-director Ben Younger (Boiler Room), making his first feature in over a decade, no doubt found Pazienza's story catnip. Teller's Vinny gets to go from cock of the walk, with a champion's belt, a gambling problem and girls galore, to a hospital bed in which he lies paralysed – told he may never walk again, let alone fight. But a fighter is what he is, so he rages against his fate and his prognosis, refuses to listen to anyone and embarks on his own high-risk rehabilitation programme.
Unfortunately the film never emulates its protagonist by punching above its weight. True story though this is, to its detriment it is reminiscent of so many other and better boxing films, fictitious or factual, from the obligatory training montage evocation of Rocky to the vocal young women on the living room sofa watching Vinny compete that brings The Fighter to mind. And Teller is hot stuff now, but he isn't Robert De Niro, not yet. He does a committed impersonation of Vinny Paz, but the guy is a stubborn, obnoxious ass. Clearly we are supposed to admire his grit, be inspired by his refusal to give up, exult in his triumph against all odds. But there's little warmth, poignance or charm about him – or any of it – so it's hard to care that much when he climbs into the ring, especially when we already know he's going to win.
General release from Fri 2 Dec.