Bleed for This, directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room, Prime) tells the unbelievable true story of the most captivating comebacks of sports history after boxer Vinny Pazienza “The Pazmanian Devil” (Miles Teller), overcomes the impossible.
The film begins with a press conference for the first fight portrayed in Bleed for This, Mayweather vs. Pazienza. The next night, Pazienza suffers a brutal loss to Mayweather. After three consecutive losses, Pazienza is ready to shape-up and work with notorious trainer Kevin Roone (Aaron Eckhart). After intense training, Pazienza is ready for his next fight against French boxer Gilbert Dele.
Pazienza wins triumphantly and his confidence returns. After a long winning streak, Pazienza’s glory turns into tragedy after a near-fatal car accident leaves him with a broken neck. When he awakes after his accident, he immediately asks “How much time until I can fight again?” The doctor addressed the truth wearily to Pazienza; he will never be able to box again.
Against his doctor’s orders, Pazienza choses to have the high-risk halo procedure done to repair his neck. With a single bump or fall, Pazienza could sever his spinal cord and further risk his already delicate future of boxing.
The halo surgery leaves Pazienza with an almost Medieval torture device on his head, secured with four bolts screwed into his head, and rods to support the device upon his shoulders. However, if this procedure works, it will result in a faster recovery to return to fighting. While still in critical recovery, Pazienza resumes very dangerous training with the only person who was confident and supportive of Pazienza; his trainer Roone.
After his miraculous recovery of six months, Pazienza struggles to find a boxer to willing to fight him. Finally, Pazienza gains the infamous fight against Roberto Duran. As both men remain standing after 12 brutal rounds, the judges name Pazienza the winner of the IBC World Super Middleweight Title.
The movie starred Miles Teller (Whiplash, War Dogs) whose acting I fell in love with when I saw Whiplash two years ago; he is one of my favorite modern American actors. Therefore I had great expectations walking into this movie, and without a doubt he fulfilled them. I knew I was going to really enjoy his acting as Vinny Pazienza when the viewer is first introduced to Teller’s character.
The viewer first sees Pazienza as he’s running late to his own press conference when he’s trying to make his required weight by being wrapped with saran wrap while on a cycle machine in his hotel room. I found this scene comical and served as a great introduction to Teller’s character. In the beginning of Bleed for This, Teller excellently portrays the arrogant Vinny Pazienza at the press conference in a hilarious but crude scene while arguing with his opponent, Mayweather.
What I am impressed with the most about Teller is that he is ready to seriously commit to a role by learning the necessary skills to accurately portray the character. For example, in Whiplash, he had to learn how to play the drums, and I found it amazing that a significant amount of the drum performances in the movie were done by him.
With Bleed for This, it’s obvious he had to learn the Providence accent of Pazienza, learn how to act with that insane halo device on his head, get into the physical shape of a boxer, and to learn how to box. I would really like to see Miles Teller earn his first Oscar nomination for the role of Vinny Pazienza, but I think his chances will be slim. However, his career is advancing fast, similar to (his possible Oscar opponent) Andrew Garfield from Hacksaw Ridge.
Aside from Teller, I was also impressed with Aaron Eckhart’s (Sully, The Dark Knight) transformation into Pazienza’s trainer, Kevin Roone. The duo of Teller and Eckhart was my favorite factor of the movie overall; I could not see any other actors play the roles of Pazienza and Roone like they did.
The direction, done by Ben Younger, was one of the most surprising elements of the movie. I found Younger’s work so shocking because I have never heard of him before nor of his the two movies he has directed. Younger’s direction was extremely well done, especially for him being a minor director. To me, his direction rooted back to the essence of Francis Ford Coppola’s style of the intimacy of family, and how important that is to a man’s life. I believe Bleed for This was a big break for Younger, and I look forward to what he’ll be working on next.
I also greatly enjoyed the screenplay, written of course by Younger. I love to see someone who can do more than one task for a movie, and for the end product to be successful. In the screenplay, Younger grasped the life of Vinny Pazienza with obscure mixture of a comedy plus a psychological drama; and it worked. If Teller does not receive an Oscar nomination, than I certainly hope the screenplay will; it is deserving of the nomination.
Overall, I found Bleed for This, compelling, enduring, and nothing less than raw; I give the movie 4.5 out of 5 stars. I always have a soft spot for boxing movies, and this one definitely made it to become one of my favorites of the genre. I foresee the slim possibility of Garfield and Teller competing in the Best Actor category for the Oscar, and I can’t wait to see how it will unfold for them.
Written by Alyssa Weinstein