Ben Younger (director)
Icon Films (studio)
02 December 2016 (released)
03 December 2016
It’s a man’s world so the song goes and in Bleed for This, it certainly is. Based on the true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza and his recovery from a very serious injury to once again fight for a world title, is remarkable. It is a shame that it could not have been told in a more imaginative way as this film is full of the old clichés that litter Italian/American themed films.
The basic story is that Vinnie played by Miles Teller has a relatively successful career but is now looking to jump weight divisions - by necessity - and into the higher pay and profile bracket. His father and manager (Ciarán Hinds) isn’t convinced but trainer Kevin (Aaron Eckhart) thinks it’s the way forward.
This is all serious stuff with lots of huffing and puffing but as nothing to the car crash that leaves Vinny with a broken neck. Faced with the choice of fusing his neck bones that will allow him to walk but not box or screwing a ‘halo’ frame into his skull that will allow his neck to heal naturally, he chooses the ‘halo’. He’s warned that any sudden hit or jolt could sever his spine and he’d never walk again. He then proceeds to hit his head on the car as he tries to leave the hospital without the press seeing him!
From there he decides to start training again though in secret and away from his father. This leads to the usual training montage. Much of this film will be familiar territory to cinemagoers, as well as the montage there’s the scenes of the family sitting round a table for meals, and the verbal sparring between them.
Ben Younger’s direction and script, is, as is most of the acting, functional, and has a stagey, unnatural feel about it. Teller though is convincing as the driven boxer. It’s a shame that Katey Sagal, who plays his mother, is so badly served by the script, (as most of the female cast are, being relegated to the settee and television when the fights are on) as it would have been interesting to have more of her and how her faith affected her decisions and support for her son.
The crash is handled brilliantly; no fuss, no bother and all the more shocking for that. The business side of boxing to some has always held more of a fascination and this film serves that well with the dodgy deals and the money involved.
Strange as it may seem the fight scenes are not integral to the film as the main focus is on Vinny, his recovery and relations with family and friends. But the final bout between Pazienza and Roberto Durran is well put together and the film mixes recreated and contemporary footage well. One thing that did stand out was the very intrusive soundtrack, which was at times punishing. Maybe Younger could have consulted the executive producer one Martin Scorsese as he knows a thing or two about matching sound and vision.