There seems to be a rite of passage certain actors take when they are becoming more and more recognised and that is the boxing / fighting movie. Jake Gyllenhaal did it in Southpaw; Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale did it in The Fighter; Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton did it in Warrior. It’s now time for the new(ish) kid on the block, Miles Teller, to don the shorts and gloves and put up his dukes. He stars as the lead character in Bleed For This, a boxing movie which is about overcoming adversity. In this inspired by true events story, after winning a world title, Vinny Pazienza (Teller) is in a horrific car accident which damages his spine badly enough that he is required to wear a halo which severely compromises his life, not to mention his boxing. Distraught, frustrated and feeling alone, he begins to train in the basement of his parents’ house, early in the morning so not to arouse any sort of suspicion. In the worst shape of his life he starts to feel like himself again, and brings in Aaron Eckhart’s Kevin Rooney, his trainer.
The fight he faces to deal with his injury is painful one, it’s one that you go through with him. Right down to some wince-inducing scenes such as the slightest of bumps on his head when getting out of a car shortly after having the halo put on. Plus a scene toward the end where it’s removed, it’s truly horrific. Both may not sound particularly harmful, however it’s impossible to know just how much pain he’s in. From the looks of it, it’s pretty bloody brutal. So the fact that he is eventually able to push himself into training again and motivate himself to perhaps one day get back in the ring, is genuinely amazing! Teller brings his all to this role, his body, his might, his emotion. Clearly a man who has trained and, whilst he has already done enough to prove himself as a serious actor, he’s pushing his own boundaries which is clear to see in not only his body but his performance as well.
The pairing of him and Eckhart works incredibly well, the chemistry that these two have is pure dynamite. Eckhart brings his vast range to this role, as well as his vast stomach (I’m sure he had a great time putting that weight on…) which makes him seem like a Rocky-esque figure in Creed. A retired boxer training a young and pretty cocky up and comer, despite how much they just don’t want to. There’s an emotional weight with him, someone who wants to be back in the ring but just can’t be. His almost vicarious performance holds up against Teller’s broken and bruised boxer.
Whilst the performances are on par to those Teller and Eckhart have done in the past, the film does not float, it does not sting. Previous boxing films have had the heart to keep them pushing forward and to keep you interested. This lacks heart and has a lot of style thrown in to make up for that. Boxing films aren’t an original concept however it’s how they are executed which keeps them alive. Even something as old and saggy as Rocky has been revived by a talent like Michael B. Jordan and his powerful story. Teller’s character is merely in it for himself, in it for the glory. Whilst he may bleed for this, the only thing he’s bleeding for is himself.
3 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.