Review: Teller electrifies in knockout ‘Bleed for This’
“Bleed for This” is a two-for-one deal: It’s an inspirational boxing movie and an unbelievable medical comeback story, driven by a hard-hitting performance by Miles Teller.
Teller plays Vinny Pazienza, the brash Rhode Island fighter who became World Lightweight Champion in 1987. The film opens in 1988, as a plastic-wrapped Paz is furiously trying to shed pounds before a weigh-in. Sauntering down a long hallway while Audio Two’s “Top Billin” blares over the soundtrack, we learn everything we need to about Paz’s arrogance and swagger, both as a person and an athlete.
Those things are ripped from him when he’s involved in a nasty car wreck that leaves him with a broken neck. He’s forced to wear a Halo, a medical neck brace held in place by a series of screws driven into his skull, and “Bleed for This” doesn’t wince at the gruesome details of the procedure. Along with his trainer Kevin Rooney (an excellent Aaron Eckhart), Paz begins working out and preparing for a comeback against his doctor’s orders. When he finally gets back in the ring, opponents are afraid to spar with him out of fear of re-injuring his neck.
“Bleed for This,” directed with a fighter’s spirit and a keen eye for detail by Ben Younger (“Boiler Room”), deals in frank terms with the helplessness and loneliness of recovery and the blows it delivers to one’s pride.
Teller is magnetic in the lead role, and he helps “Bleed for This” transcend boxing movie clichés. After “Creed” and “Hands of Stone” in the last year alone, the world needs another boxing movie like it needs an uppercut to the chin. But “Bleed for This” goes the distance.
‘Bleed for This’
Rated R: for language, sexuality/nudity and some accident images
Running time: 117 minutes