Miles Teller stars in this biopic of Vinny Pazienza, a World Champion boxer who suffers a car accident that threatens his ability to ever walk again. The film follows his inspirational road to recovery as he follows his dream of defying the odds and returning to the ring, under the tutelage of Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), his troubled trainer.

The boxing movie has been done many times, both successfully and unsuccessfully, and director Ben Younger handles the film with sophistication to give the audience what they want and expect, without becoming clichéd.

He is blessed with incredible source material, which as extraordinary a true story as you’re likely to come across. However, he grounds the film cleverly and balances life inside and outside the ring to great effect.

The film is superbly edited, particularly in the third act and climactic fight. It feels very well put together and rarely misses a beat. Boxing can be very tricky to capture in film but Bleed for This does it very successfully by producing a pure, real version of the sport. The fights are gruelling and punishing; but stylistically stick true to the nature of boxing.

Rarely is sound so effectively used in film. There are several moments in the film where sound, or a lack of it, can distort and make the audience uneasy. In one moment during a fight all the sound is muted other than the landing of punches. It’s so effective for the experience of the fight and is arguably the strongest element of the film.

Teller is without a doubt the star of the film. After solid performances in Whiplash and War Dogs where he was outshone by supporting actors, here he holds the film together superbly. Clips of the real Vinny show how he perfectly captures the essence, attitude and even boxing style of his character. The complexities of his charming exterior but driven interior are performed with nuance and style.

Perhaps the surprise performance comes from Eckhart, who shows a depth he hasn’t shown very often in his career. His character’s relationship with Vinny is a vital cog in the film and he plays it perfectly.

There aren’t many other notable characters. Vinny’s father Angelo (Ciarán Hinds) is always interesting if not a little cliché, and Louise (Katey Sagal) has very little to do as the overprotective mother, which is disappointing considering how strong an actor she is.

The film flows well and gets better throughout. The third act climaxes brilliantly and gives the audience exactly what it wants. Teller is outstanding and the film tells the story very well, although with such exceptional source material you wonder if it could have been even better.
It’s not Raging Bull but it has enough punch, pride and passion to make this an engaging and inspiring boxing movie.

Gethin Morgan

[4star]

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