Bleed for This, B
Rated R, 117 minutes
Most people enjoy a good comeback story, and the predictable but winning "Bleed for This" is exactly that. Based on the true story of New England fighter Vinny Paz, it's nothing new, but the appealing film plays well to the "Rocky" crowd.
Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza (Miles Teller), a Rhode Island boxer, shoots to stardom after winning two world title fights. After a near-fatal car accident leaves him with a broken neck, he may never walk again. Against all odds and doctor's orders, renowned trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) helps Vinny return to the ring just a year after the accident in one of sports biggest comeback stories.
Directed and written by "Boiler Room's" Ben Younger, "Bleed for This" tells Vinny Paz's remarkable comeback story with enough heart and humor that it overcomes its standard boxing cinematic machinations - win-get hurt-lose comeback-win some more. Of course, just as in baseball, boxing is apt for stories like that are really metaphors for the triumph of the human spirit, or something like that.
Stepping into the boxing ring with considerable charm this time is "Whiplash's" Teller, who grounds the film well, taking on the New England accent with wit and grit that reminds of Christian Bale's Oscar-winning turn in another cinematic real-life story, "The Fighter." Those scenes of Vinny after his car accident in the Halo, a circular metal device, go on too long, but it's the movie's main plot device for getting Vinny back in the ring.
Younger blends "Bleed for This" with actual news footage of Vinny's comeback, and it's no surprise he became something of a local news sensation, given his situation. Don't forget that his family, his Dad (Ciaran Hinds) and Mom (Katey Sagal) were of big help, as was his rowdy trainer Rooney, played with considerable appeal from a balding and paunchy Eckhart, who's garnering some acclaim for his role: his scenes of sparring with Vinny and encouraging him are among the film's most memorable moments.
As with most real stories, some events are altered or changed for effect, the climactic title fight with Roberto Duran happened actually later in Vinny's career, but name recognition certainly doesn't hurt. "Bleed for This" bleeds a lot and pulls few surprising punches, and those final scenes ring with familiarity, but it still won't hurt as much as it does Vinny. The enjoyable, bloody and triumphant "Bleed for This" is on your side, and that's a good thing, and don't forget to stay over for the credits to see all the real-life people played in the film.