Bleed For This is a boxing movie with heart and determination – as most of them are. But what makes this a standout is that it’s a true story of the life of Vinny Pazienza, who despite a life-threatening injury was able to make one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
The plotline unfolds carefully starting with a lightweight boxer being beaten and then told by his manager that he should never box again. Contrary to this advice he presses on and begins working with a new trainer who bumps him up two weight classes to a glorious win. Shortly after the win, Vinny’s neck is broken in a car crash. Doctors tell him he will probably not walk again much less fight.
Undaunted by this, he convinces them to put on a halo, a medieval looking device, which is bolted to his head to protect his neck while it heals naturally. In a stunning series of events, he begins to work out despite the incredible pain and potential peril to his body. Somehow, he convinces his trainer, family and the boxing world that he will fight again and is able to get another match. In an incredible upset, he manages to beat Roberto Duran, who at that time is a titleholder. Thus, showing true grit and determination. What makes this story so inspirational is how truly improbable the comeback was.
Burgeoning superstar Miles Teller plays the main character, otherwise known as the “Pazmanian devil” in such an honest performance. Although many of the actual fight sequences were interwoven with the real life match footage, Teller did get into incredible shape for this role and showed an ability to move around a boxing ring. His portrayal of the character is a little less abrasive than the real life Vinny, making him a whole lot more likable.
Aaron Eckhart is unrecognizable and quite convincing as trainer Kevin Rooney (the man also trained Mike Tyson). With a strangely shaved head, stomach paunch and New York accent, Eckhart was Rooney. Ciaran Hinds plays Vinny’s father in a good supporting role.
The soundtrack was a perfect addition to the movie, especially in the training sequences. Stay for the end through the credits roll to see real life interviews with the characters to find how spot on the actor’s portrayals were.
On a side note, and not sure if coincidental, Roberto Duran’s life story was depicted earlier this year in a “Hands of Stone.” Couple that with last year’s “Creed” and it has been a good couple of years for boxing movies.