Review: You might not be familiar with Vinny Pazienza’s miraculous story dubbed as the ‘greatest comeback in sports history,’ but, after 5 minutes, Bleed for This will give you clear head-ups. The story comfortably fashions itself as a cliché-ridden based-on-true-events boxer’s story, which feels as text-bookish as it could be. However, clichés are no match for the true sportsmanship spirit it carries on and the hard punches it launches.
Miles Teller portrays Vinny Paz – a loudmouth Rhode Island native, who is eager to take all punch; but, really, he is a no-contender. In a title shot against Roger Mayweather, he suffered an embarrassing defeat, which triggers his managers, The Duvas Brothers, to urge him to give up boxing. Yet, Vinny, a tenacious macho man, refuses to surrender; instead, he teams up with Mike Tyson’s former alcoholic coach, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart). The feat instantly becomes an unlikely union – the band of losers aiming for the most plausible shot for future.
There’s nothing particularly special about the narrative. It follows a W narrative structure – marked with double pinnacles following double pit-bottom respectively. Writer-director, Ben Younger, crafts it as a linear piece – following the rise and fall in chronological order and guiding audiences to sympathize the protagonist despite his occasionally irritating behavior. The result is a crowd-pleasing cheer to some predictable moments of the glorified ‘greatest comeback.’
Notwithstanding, the falls in ‘rise and falls’ are barely predictable. The timing is predictable, but not the means of the falls. There’s a sudden reversal of fortune in the midpoint of the narrative, where Vinny gets involved in a demolishing car accident, which literally breaks his neck. There’s where Ben Younger’s text-bookish strategy holds up.
Following the car accident, Bleed for This instantly tones down its frenetic, oohed and aahed, sport bonanza; relocating the fight from the ring to the living-room-turned-bed, where Vinny – now wearing Halo, a suspender screwed to his skulls – spends several months of recovery. He no longer fights a jab nor an uppercut with a hook; he battles the boredom and the feeling of ‘being finished.’ Instead of nose-diving into melodrama, Ben Younger roots Bleed for This to the electric chemistry between Vinny and Kevin.
Miles Teller’s solid performance hinders Bleed for This from being a sappy drama after his character’s second fall. Despite minimum resemblance in terms of appearance, Teller is the most perfect cast to portray Vinny Paz. His obnoxious persona lines up with Vinny’s character; and that annoying feature doesn’t weaken at all even on his character’s lowest. He himself has appeased the demand to vividly portray the comeback kind; but Bleed for This isn’t merely about Vinny. It’s about his relationship with Kevin Rooney – which Teller and Eckhart bring into life with absorbing chemistry; with Vinny’s family – in which, Ciaran Hinds excels as a demanding father; and his agents. Teller delightfully connects all the dots and keeps us in tact despite the lack of originality.
Even when Ben Younger is inept in crafting an engaging boxing choreography – like in other boxing films; he’s best in ensuring the ‘bleed for this’ moment felt. He shows prowess in convincing that there are some punches we can’t dodge; and when they come, he shows us how it hurts. Each hook, jab, and uppercut feels hurt; but what hurt more lies outside the rings. There are moments like when Vinny bumps his Halo on the car, or when he’s unable to lift the weight; or when screws are removed from his Halo; that remind us that Vinny Paz has to ‘bleed for this’, for the greatest comeback in sports history.
Unless you’re an anti-cliché kind of person, you won’t mind with the clichés in Bleed for This. After all, it’s not a glorified biopic; it’s a feel-good biopic aimed for entertainment purpose solely. Bleed for This might not be a TKO, but still, it’s a winning by points decision, in which most points come from hard punches delivered by Miles Teller’s obnoxious persona and well-crafted chemistry with Aaron Eckhart and Ciaran Hinds.
Bleed for This (2017)