BY ROGER THOMAS
I have written often in my reviews that I think we have had enough boxing films. Two Oscar-winning “Best Pictures” are about a boxer: “Rocky” and “Million Dollar Baby.” At least three more boxing films were nominated for “Best Picture” in their respective years: 1932’s “The Champ,” “Raging Bull” and “The Fighter.” Beyond these five, there are many more boxing films, which causes me to question whether we need any more.
I went into “Bleed for This” with a chip on my shoulder. Once again, I was challenging the filmmakers: “Give me something that warrants yet another film about a boxer.” Unexpectedly, “Bleed for This” is an incredibly captivating film.
This is a the true story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza. When Pazienza was at the top of his sport, he was involved in a serious car crash. His neck was broken and he was advised by his doctor that he may never walk again. Pazienza rejected this diagnosis and declared that he would fight in the ring once more.
The film offers a very inspirational story. Having lived through a serious car accident, I related personally to many of the issues of recovery Vinny endured. I also found myself remembering the importance of the people around me, those who visited me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and kept the faith that I would recover. The film offers a clear example of the importance of having love around you in dark times of struggle. Those scenes of struggle, recovery and setbacks depict an authentic experience that probably mirrors the lives of many.
The film also reminds the viewers that a positive attitude is half the battle. Though Vinny was surrounded by people who loved and encouraged him, most of them did not believe, as Vinney did, that he would ever box again. Vinny never gave up, and that is what makes this such an inspirational story.
The film has other strengths. There is a large ensemble cast and all of them do great work. Miles Teller plays Vinny. Teller was the lead in “Whiplash,” a member of the cast in the “Divergent” series, and earlier this year he was half of the duo in “War Dogs.” This young actor is almost always impressive. The other stand-out cast member is Aaron Eckhart who is unrecognizable in the role of Vinny’s trainer Kevin Rooney. Rooney is the heart of the story. He believes in Vinny before the accident whole-heartedly. After the accident, he is the first, besides Vinny, to believe. The encouraging belief of another should never be underestimated.
The film looks great, especially in the fighting scenes. Even though I am tired of the boxing genre, I found myself on the edge of the seat waiting to see what was going to happen to Vinny, before his wreck, and after it.
I would offer one word of caution. This is an “R” rated film. This is not the boxing movie that is appropriate for the whole family. That film would be “Rocky.” There is a lot language and content in this film that is not family friendly. You have been warned.
So here is the conclusion. I can be wrong and admit it. Maybe there is room for more boxing films. I may not be eager to see them in the beginning, but if there are done as well as “Bleed for This,” then I will welcome them to the cinema. This story left me feeling positive and encouraged. Good things do happen for those who persevere. If you do not believe that fact, see the film and pay special attention to the glimpses of the “real” Vinny at the end of the film.