Friday, November 18, 2016

Bleed for This

It would be easy to look at Bleed for This and dismiss it as nothing more than another inspirational sports movie adapting a real-life athlete's adversity into a feature film. However, that would be a mistake. Bleed for This is better than I expected as the tale of world-champion boxer Vinny Pazienza's (Miles Teller) rise, fall, and struggle to reclaim his dream turns out to be worth all the sports cliches you find in such films.

Offering 40 minutes of Vinny's life before the accident which nearly paralyzed him, writer/director Ben Younger gives the audience plenty of time to learn about Vinny and the unwavering determination which will play a crucial role over the rest of the film.

While some supporting characters outside the boxing ring get the short shaft (Vinny's girlfriends appear and disappear without ever letting us learn more than a name - if that), the movie hangs on Teller's performance, and he pulls it off with aplomb. Younger also makes several interesting decisions throughout the film in how he shoots boxing sequences (getting us into the action without shaky cam) and even in one memorable moment dropping all sound completely except for the sound of each punch landing.

The cast also includes memorable performances by a near-unrecognizable Ted Levine as boxing manager and promoter Lou Duva, Aaron Eckhart as Vinny's trainer Kevin Rooney, and Katey Sagal and Ciarán Hinds as Vinny's parents (and the only members of his extended family fleshed out over the course of the movie). Each have an important connection to Vinny's life and chosen career, and each have definite opinions about the injured boxer attempting to make it back into the ring against the advice of doctors and experts.

More about one man's indomitable will than his chosen profession, Bleed for This is indeed an inspirational sports movie (how could it not be?). Younger's script can't shy away from that simple fact. However, the talent on display both in front, and behind, the camera raises the bar here to make something memorable out of what could just have easily been a forgettable TV-movie. Vinny's story is a miraculous one that plays well on-screen and is worth the price of a ringside seat.

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