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