Bleed For This is a film by director Ben Younger and stars Miles Teller as a boxer named Vinny Pazienza. He’s a guy who was fighting at the top of his game before losing it all in a car accident. He’s then coached by Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) and his father, Angelo (Ciaran Hinds) to get back in the ring.
I wouldn’t call this film a boxing movie and that’s its biggest problem. Aside from the opening scene, this film could’ve been in a practice ring. It never showed the emotions of the other side and always painted Pazienza’s opponents as the bad guys. Duran (Edwin Rodriguez) is never shown as anything except this antagonistic character who’s willing to end the life of Pazienza which is something that even Pazienza’s own teammates wouldn’t do. It never showed any sign of wanting to be different either. There were only a handful of moments where the fights were even being watch by people other than family members. It was all about Pazienza. That’s why I’m only referring to it as a comeback story and not a boxing film.
The performances in the film were pretty great. Teller shows great emotion and truly tests himself as an actor. This film is really all about him and he shows what kind of actor he really is. There were times where I was cringing at the pain that he was showing on this face. If I didn’t know any better, I would actually think that those were real screws that they took out of his head. I felt his persistence and desire to be the greatest. That’s what I admired most about Teller.
On the opposite end, Aaron Eckhart’s character parallels Teller’s journey in a similar fashion. I think the film also could’ve starred him as his comeback from his alcoholism. There’s a good moment in the film where Teller is accusing Eckhart of being a hypocrite. I thought it showed a light on the character and made us, the audience, want both characters to succeed.
My other main gripe in the film were the girlfriend characters and their lack of explanation. There’s a few times where Louise (Katey Sagal), Pazienza’s mom, can’t remember his first girlfriend’s name (Christine Evangelista). It starts the conversation about Pazienza’s crazy life, but it doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail. Anyways, he loses 3 fights including a championship fight and her reaction is to stay by his side. Then, Pazienza gets into a car accident and then she leaves his because of the crazy contraption on his head. Why wasn’t it the 3 fights? I just didn’t get her intentions. There’s a moment where Teller tells the nurse that he’s always in there for dehydration even if he wins, so it’s pretty apparent that she deals with this all of the time. Then, Heather (Tina Casciani) is introduced with no apparent reason and then she’s hardly explained for the rest of the film. I thought it made it abundantly clear that the film doesn’t want you to care about these people, but they’re major parts of the film.
Focusing solely on Pazienza was a bad choice. There were moments where the surrounding atmosphere could’ve been more fleshed out to show other character’s intentions and give more clarity into the greater situation. I personally didn’t like Pazienza. I thought he was a bad gambler and couldn’t control himself. I was rooting for him to quit boxing the entire film and that’s definitely not what the director wants you to keep thinking about, but you inevitably do. So, when other characters are telling Pazienza to stop boxing, their opinion matters as much as yours simply because the director has shown you time and time again in the film that those characters don’t matter. If they did matter, then maybe these fights or even the daily struggles of Pazienza would give you empathy for him. I was almost left rooting for Duran in the final fight even though I knew nothing about him.
Overall, the film’s lack of atmosphere takes the tension out of the film. It’s a good comeback story, but it can’t hold up to the best in terms of its boxing. I think Miles Teller did a solid job in portraying the character and Aaron Eckhart was great in his role. It just doesn’t have the energy or excitement that the Rocky series and Creed have spoiled us with for years.