Film Review: BLEED FOR THIS (USA 2014) ***1/2

bleed_for_this_movie_posterDirector: Ben Younger
Writers: Pippa Bianco (story), Angelo Pizzo (story), Ben Younger (Screenplay)
Stars: Miles Teller, Christine Evangelista, Katey Sagal, Aaron Eckhart, Ciarán Hinds, Ted Levine

 As the title of the film suggests, the success of a boxer depends also on how well he can receive hard punishment in the ring. For real-life Rhode Island boxer Vinnie Paz, the biggest hit he was dealt with was not in the ring, but in life, getting into a car accident that left him almost paralysed.

BLEED FOR THIS is a boxing drama/action film which lies somewhere between David O. Russell’s THE FIGHTER and Stallone’s ROCKY films in terms of action and drama. The film is so called because the boxer, Vinny Paz (Miles Teller) is able to receive bloody punishment in the ring with almost no bounds. Audiences beware! There is a lot of brutal an bloody fight scenes in BLEED FOR THIS.

The film is a true story of boxer Vinnie Paz. The boxer’s ring name is the Pazmanian Devil. Paz is one of few American boxers to hold world titles (encouraged by his coach) in three different weight categories, had his ascent interrupted by a cataclysmic accident. Family is everything to young Vinny. There’s his father, Angelo (Ciarán Hinds), his religious mother, Louise (Katey Sagal), who avoids her son’s televised fights by hiding in a hallway-closet Catholic shrine, and several fractious siblings. They are all trying to make their way in working-class Rhode Island, and their hopes are pinned on Vinny’s boxing. He has every intention of fulfilling everyone’s dreams, but he just can’t seem to find the edge he needs to get ahead. That changes when he meets Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), a coach whose problems with alcohol have led to the destruction of his own career. Each finds in the other a second chance. The two bond, they train hard, and Vinny’s success seems assured — until a terrible car accident leaves him with a broken neck. The prognosis is that he will never walk again, let alone enter the ring. This is a story of a comeback, and part of it is a redemption story. Director Younger succeeds in showing both the painful but rewarding sides of the story.

Despite the serious nature of the film, director Younger (BOILER ROOM), who also wrote the film, is smart enough to inject humour at various parts of his storytelling. Most of the moments are provided by Eckhart, hamming it ip as Vinnie’s trainer.

There are three excellent performances that deserve mention. The first, of course is the lead performance by Miles Teller. Teller was then pudgy and played the pudgy, obnoxious male friend trying to get a date in THAT AWKWARD MOVEMENT. Teller proved his acting ability in WHIPLASH, showing he was just as good as Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons. In BLEED FOR THIS, Teller has also bulked up to the physique of a boxer.

He captures the drama with both the pain and exhilarance of fighting in the ring. The other two are the supporting actors. The handsome Aaron Eckhart has done the opposite, putting on weight to be a pudgy alcoholic trainer while Ciaran Hinds plays Vinnie’s fiery and domineering father. All three are deserving of an Oscar nomination in the acting category.


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