Nearly a knock­out

DAVID ED­WARDS finds Bleed for This, based on a true story that packs a punch

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - ON SCREEN -

MILES Teller ce­ments his sta­tus as a heavy­weight of the act­ing world with his lat­est raw and bru­tally vis­ceral sports drama.

If you thought he was bril­liant as the drum­mer in last year’s Whiplash, check out Bleed For This.

Based on a true story, it fol­lows the ca­reer of light­weight boxer Vinny Pazienza, the ‘Paz­ma­nian Devil’, who won the world light­weight ti­tle in 1987.

But it all went hor­ri­bly wrong when he was in­volved in a car ac­ci­dent four years later that left him with a bro­ken neck and the prog­no­sis that he’d never walk again, much less box.

Fit­ted with a ‘halo’ – a screw-mounted head brace re­sem­bling a me­dieval tor­ture de­vice to keep his spine in place – the Rhode Is­land fighter be­gan a come­back quite un­like any other, un­der the guid­ance of his boozy trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eck­hart).

Bleed For This may not be a box­ing film quite up there with the likes of Rag­ing Bull, Mil­lion Dol­lar Baby or Re­quiem For A Heavy­weight. It re­lies on just a few too many cliches – train­ing mon­tages, some deeply cheesy ring­side fist­pump­ing and its ham­mered-home “never give up” mes­sage.

But hold­ing it up against such es­teemed com­pany doesn’t make it a bad movie. There’s plenty to en­joy, par­tic­u­larly Teller’s jaw-drop­pingly com­mit­ted per­for­mance.

The ac­tor, who looked about 10 stone soak­ing wet in the woe­ful Fan­tas­tic Four re­boot, has un­der­gone an en­tire phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.

The matches are well staged, the sup­port­ing cast (es­pe­cially a vir­tu­ally un­recog­nis­able Eck­hart) uni­formly ex­cel­lent, and the pe­riod de­tail star­tling – think lots of ques­tion­able stub­ble, women with big hair and men wear­ing gold chains over their sweaters.

Not that Bleed For This is al­ways an easy watch, with the fit­ting of the halo, and its even­tual re­moval, al­most im­pos­si­ble to sit through.

Knock­out stuff? Per­haps not – but Teller’s per­for­mance packs a hell of a punch.

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