Bleed for This
dir-scr Ben Younger
prd Ben Younger, Bruce Cohen, Noah Kraft, Pamela Thur, Emma Tillinger Koskof, Chad A Verdi
with Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Ciaran Hinds, Katey Sagal, Ted Levine, Jordan Gelber, Amanda Clayton, Daniel Sauli, Christine Evangelista, Tina Casciani, Peter Quillin, Jean Pierre Augustin
release US 18.Nov.16, UK 2.Dec.16
16/US 1h56
Bleed for This
Get back in the ringr: Hinds, Teller and Eckhart

teller sagal levine
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Bleed for This A terrific story about a boxer who refused to give up, this film is resolutely inspirational, eschewing the complexities of the situations or characters for a straightforward tale of triumph over adversity. It's rousing and well-acted by eclectic actors cast against type. And it's shot with plenty of earthy grit that vividly brings the story to life. But by remaining so simplistic, it never grabs the imagination.

As a young boxer, Vinny Pazienza (Teller) wins world championships in two weight classes with the help of his trainer father Angelo (Hinds) and then his coach Kevin (Eckhart). Miraculously surviving a car crash, Vinny decides to return to boxing, even though another injury could mean he wouldn't walk again. Kevin reluctantly agrees to train him, pushing him up into yet another weight class in the process. And father-son promoters (Levine and Gelber) decide this is such a great story that Vinny deserves a massive Vegas comeback bout.

The film traverses this territory steadily, echoing Vinny's unwavering determination. It's packed with edgy fights, strained relationships and physical and emotional struggles. There are also, of course, lots of stirring training montages. But nothing about this movie cracks the surface. Vinny never doubts his tenacity (he hangs up his gloves for about 20 seconds), his family only cursorily objects to his dangerous decisions, his opponents don't stand a chance.

At the centre, Teller delivers a roaring performance that intriguingly channels his more geeky persona into this meathead. Vinny is likeable and easy to cheer for. Eckhart also veers off-piste as the balding, podgy, alcoholic Kevin, a kinetic character whose spiky personality is a lot of fun. Hinds is thunderous as a bull-headed Italian father, although his relationship with Vinny is never explored at all. Sagal is emotive as Vinny's mother, but has little to do, like the rest of the cast.

This is the remarkable true story of a young man who refuses to accept the limited life people envision for him, both before and after his accident. The facts and the performances keep the audience gripped, but there's never a moment when the film challenges us to grapple with the issues facing Vinny. There only seems to be one choice ahead for him, involving a flurry of boxing movie cliches and superficial emotions. Basically, writer-director Younger want us to cheer Vinny on without thinking too much.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 14.Nov.16

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