Release Date: November 18, 2016
Director: Ben Younger
Writer: Pippa Bianco, Angelo Pizzo, Ben Younger
Cast: Christine Evangelista, Miles Teller, Katey Sagal, Ciaran Hinds, Aaron Eckhart, Ted Levine, Allie Marshall, Kimberly Howe, Gia Skova, Tina Casciaini, Amanda Clayton, Julie Ann Dawson, Portland Helmich, Liz Carey, Ashley Couture, Sabrina Piper, Ashley Tramonte, Stephanie McIntyre, Sully Erna, Susan Garibotto, Tim Fields, Jodie Brunelle, Jordan Gelber, Arthur Hiou, Jeffrey Corazzini, Stacey Forbes Iwanicki, Tom DeNucci, Dante Palminteri, J.P. Valenti
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes
Production Company: Verdi Productions, Magna Entertainment, Bruce Cohen Productions, Sikelia Productions, Younger Than You, Open Road Films
Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport
Language: English, French
There’s a huge difference between giving up and walking away. These lines are often blurred, and if not distinguished it can have a great effect on someone trying to reach great heights. Apparently, that was a choice Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) had to make. It was a hard decision, but he didn’t appear to care about the outcome. It wasn’t clear if he wanted all the fame and glory, or had nothing to lose and was trying to end his life in disguise. Both sides of the argument have the evidence to make valid points, but in the end, it’s up to you to decide how you want to take in this history lesson. You are really here to see how the story is told, and possibly if you can take something from it. From a technical stand point you can, and for entertainment reasons the soundtrack and editing are fun. However, the overall arc isn’t as interesting, resulting in a tiresome bore.
While most people won’t be running out of the theater screaming about the film’s magnificence, they might scream about the performance between two of the main leads. Depending on your particular taste, some would prefer to see the character before the actor and not be distracted by another famous face. Aaron Eckhart’s role as Kevin Rooney was the embodiment of that. His performance was bold and stood out as if he was the man himself. All of the mannerisms and attire were believable. His accent, along with Teller’s, was spot on and convincing. With not even having prior knowledge of the real-life man, you could tell that Teller was doing something special. During the outtakes of the film, real life footage of Pazienza himself were shown; which hardened the glue even more that tied all the performances together.
Nearly every other aspect of the film was decent enough as well. This isn’t a boxing movie, but a film about overcoming adversity with some boxing in it. The way the boxing was infused within the film was seamless too. Some boxing films are so unrealistic with the competitors throwing blow after blow connecting every time. It’s monumentally unrealistic, but that isn’t the case here. The boxing felt real, and so did other parts of the film. The landscape of Rhode Island felt as if they were there, and the family dynamic was strong. All of the relationships were genuine, whether they were laughing together at the dinner table or arguing about the next big obstacle in life. The politics of the business were included too, as well as all the ups and downs of everyday dealing within the businesss. The only problem was it was difficult to care.
While the beginning of the film started out fresh and fun with great beats to bob your head to and a charismatic actor, you start to realize what’s at stake. While some may call Pazienza great, some may call him foolish, and if you lean towards the latter it takes away from the enjoyment of the film. This is especially so with this being a true story. That’s where a large problem lays with the overall tone of the film. Everyone loves a comeback underdog story, because it can motivate you to do the near impossible when all odds are against you. The struggle won’t be dangerous or life threatening, but it could mold you into a better person that most can respect. Those notions are a popular tone in films to motivate and inspire. Bleed for This chose that same tone by mistake, and it brings the film down drastically. Within the film the tone suggests that Pazienza was a brave man to follow or learn something from. Instead it could’ve just been a lesson learned from a decision someone made and the possible consequences, as opposed to the lesson being, “if you want something bad enough, risk your life risk your life on a daily basis.” After trying to bench press with a Halo attached to his body, the message and/or tone of the film was lost.
That doesn’t mean you still can’t have a good time. The performances were solid across the board, and there are enough funny moments to bring you back up if the pacing starts to sour out. In the long run, some may look at Vinny Pazienza and think he’s a hero. It’s great that he made it through such adversity, but his actions didn’t make for the best theatrical run. An audience member is supposed to be amazed at the trials and tribulations one went through to reach the top, not sit uncomfortably for half the duration cringing in your seat because the main lead is playing with matches in a gasoline shower.