In Whiplash it was imperative we believed in Miles Teller as somebody who simply wouldn’t give up – to achieve in the face of adversity, by any means necessary. Naturally, he makes for perfect casting as Vinny Pazienza in Ben Younger’s latest production Bleed For This – which is pretty handy, for in this feature Teller is tasked with playing somebody with even more at stake: his life.
Based on a true story, Pazienza was a remarkably talented boxer with an inclination to enjoy himself, but under the watchful guidance of his father Angelo (Ciaran Hinds) and trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) he was set for greatness, symbolised in his claiming of the Junior Middleweight World Title, with his eyes on further glory. But before he was given the chance to prove his worth he was involved in a car accident which caused seemingly irrevocable damage to his neck and spine. No matter how many times he asked, Pazienza was relayed with the same information: he’ll never fight again. But the boxer had a knack for not giving up, and was convinced he could stage a comeback and step foot in the ring again – though it might come at quite a cost.
Teller turns in a terrific display in the lead role, who vitally remains flawed throughout the picture, never heroised, and shown to be stubborn and selfish, to put his life on the line despite his loved ones adamantly protesting against it. The supporting cast impress, but none more so than Hinds who remains such an underrated actor, and with this part really shows off his staggering versatility. On a more negative note, Eckhart’s hairstyle is somewhat distracting, while the less said about Teller’s tash the better. It’s a great film for the story and the performances, not to mention the resourceful nature Younger has told this tale – but it’s not a great day out for hairstyles, be it on the top of the head or on the face.
In the popular sub-genre that is the boxing movie, Bleed For This sits pretty, and with Martin Scorsese attached as an executive producer, and given the fact he’s behind arguably the very finest boxing movie of all time in Raging Bull, his stamp of approval speaks volumes. But this remains traditionalist in its approach (and to its detriment in parts as cliche kicks in), because at its core we’re dealing with a story of the underdog; though unlike the Rocky franchise, or more recently Creed and Southpaw, Bleed For This has the added bonus of being based entirely on real events, which just gives it that little something extra.