Bleed for This
9th October 2016 5.30pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
10th October 2016 11.30am at Embankment Garden Cinema
12th October 2016 8.30pm at Hackney Picturehouse
Make it about masculinity, make it about family, but please don’t ever make a boxing movie about boxing. For the first 30 minutes that’s exactly what Bleed for This seems like it’s going to do. The protagonist is Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller, quite good), known in the ring as “The Pazmanian Devil”. He works his butt off on the exercise bike to reach the right weight, and he gives it his all in the fights, bashing himself on the head to drive himself into a frenzy. Vinny still loses; he’s then entrusted to trainer Kevin Rooney (a bald, chubby Aaron Eckhart) to take him to the big leagues.
Vinny doesn’t seem very special. He’s a Boston kid from a Boston family – he likes to gamble, he doesn’t drink, he has a supermodel girlfriend. For some reason, he is driven to succeed at the expense of his own health; even for fights he wins, he ends up in the hospital. But this thread is derailed by a shock car accident, which puts Vinny in the hospital with a broken neck. The doctors are doubtful he’ll ever walk again, let alone fight. He’s given halo surgery, a metal framework drilled into his skull – if he moves his neck too much, his spinal cord will sever. Still, this doesn’t stop Vinny from trying to box again.
The plot moves from one predictable storyline to another, but this one is more forgivable. It actually sets up the stakes of its scenario quite effectively: Vinny’s training literally becomes a matter of life and death, as one wrong move will destroy his life. It’s a true story, so it’s clear how it will turn out – but all this is forgotten during the actual boxing matches, which are somewhat tense.
This goes a long way to forgive the treatment of women in the story – defined as either sex objects or housekeepers – or the generally bog-standard, seen-it-all-before boxing narrative. If there are going to be mediocre boxing films on an annual basis – and the existence of Southpaw, Grudge Match and the upcoming Hands of Stone implies that there definitely will be – they could be worse than Bleed for This. They could be a lot better, too.
Bleed for This is released nationwide on 2nd December 2016.
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Watch the trailer for Bleed for This here: