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A drama inspired by the life of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner.
Director: Philippe Falardeau
Writers: Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Naomi Watts, Ron Perlman, Liev Schreiber
Review by Gilbert Seah
Quebec director Falardeau has made some excellent Quebec films like CONGORAMA, MONSIEUR LAZHAR (his most famous and critical acclaimed film) and MY INTERNSHIP IN CANADA. THE BLEEDER with all its good points, however, is unable to reach the director’s high point, probably due to its depressing subject matter, though based on a true story.
The film is based on the life of Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber). It traces the rise to fall to redemption of Chuck, the man concentrating on his personal life rather than his boxing. It is tough to see a man from the Bronx, go down after gaining fame. The life of fame and riches seduced the man, resulting in him leaving his wife, doing drugs like cocaine and flirting around.
The atmosphere of the 70’s where the story takes place is authentically created. There are 70’s period films that do not look as if they were made in the 70’s, The BLEEDER looks as if it was made in the 70’s. Everything from props, dialogue, hair, music and sets is perfect.
This is the life of Chuck Wepner, best known for his 1975 fight with the heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. The film is called THE BLEEDER because Chuck is able to take punishment, which allowed him to stay that many rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali.
Live Schreiber plays Chuck the loser that he is. He is not too bright either. When he learns that Stallone stole his life story, he calls United Artists and asks to speak to directly to Stallone. When Chuck finally meets Stallone, he does not even ask him for royalties. One problem with the film is that Chuck is not a likeable human being. Worse, is that he is a loser with few redeeming qualities. It is hard to feel sorry for a man who was married three times who keeps cheating on his wives. His daughter is understandably upset with him. Everyone would be, including the teacher at a PTA meeting who walks away disgusted. Unlike the film ROCKY, which is based on Chuck’s life a film that became so popular because ROCKY was about a winner, THE BLEEDER is about a loser.
The boxing scenes are violent and necessarily so, as the film has to show the character living up to the name of Bleeder. The main match, the one between Muhammad Ali and Chuck is convincing enough to look like the real thing.
Schreiber is excellent in his role as Elizabeth Moss is as his second wife. The film does not really explain how Sylvester Stallone learned about Chuck’s life to portray him so accurately in his Oscar Winning film. The actor, Morgan Spector playing Stallone is totally laughable in his look – looking like a skinny though toned version of the Stallion.
THE BLEEDER is not a bad film. But a depressing film about a loser is going to be a tough sell to attract audiences.
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