Boxing movies face an uphill battle, with constant comparison to genre greats such as Rocky and Raging Bull. And we've seen so many copies of both, it's a refeshing change when something as different as Bleed For This comes along.
Based on the true story of Rhode Island-born World Champion Boxer Vinny "Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza (Miles Teller), follows the traditional sports movie themes made so famous by Rocky for about the first half hour or so before taking a shocking turn. After losing a series of fights, it sees as though Pazienza is on the way out until he hooks up with trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart).
The chubby, balding trainer gets Vinny back on the road to victory in the ring, but when all is looking bright for his career, Vinny is almost lkilled in a car accident. His neck is broken and he is told that he may never walk again, let alone box. Vinny is fitted with a "halo" – a circular metal brace screwed into the skull in four spots and propped up with four metal rod that will help his spine to heal – and against the advice of doctors and his family (Katey Sagal and Ciarán Hinds are wonderful as parents Louise and Angelo), he begins trainging again to get himself fighting fit again.
Of course, if you know the true story of Vinny's battle, you know that he did fight again – he was back in the rign just over a year after the accident, and he went on to beat Luis Santana, Brett Lally, Lloyd Honeyghan, Dan Sherry and Roberto Duran – and he retired from boxing in 2004. It's a classic underdog story, and Teller is superb in the title role. He looks just right for the part, pulls off Pazienza's stubbornness and arrogance, and is more than convincing in the fight scenes. But Eckhart is the one to watch here. He's almost unrecognisable, fatter and balder than we have seen him before, his rugged handsomeness gone as he throws himself into the role of doing all he can to get Vinny back in the ring while keeping him alive. Writer-director ben Younger works hard to stop the film becoming overly sentimental, and his direction is solid and assured if unremarkable – but the fight scenes are beautifully shot. Bleed For This is an inspiring true-life comeback tale and a more-than decent boxing film.