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Bleed for This

Updated on December 8, 2016
Stevennix2001 profile image

Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic that writes about movies in his spare time.

Stevennix2001's Rating:

2 / 10

Pros:

  • Acting was pretty good.
  • Fight scenes were fairly realistic, and well choreographed.
  • Cinematography was OK for the most part.

Cons:

  • Very predictable story.
  • Lousy direction
  • Most of the story feels a bit rushed
  • Because so much time was invested getting you emotionally involved into the first arc of the film, you barely find yourself giving a damn about the second one that has an eerily similar setup and theme.
  • Most of the characters are barely developed.
  • A lot of pointless scenes and subplots that never go anywhere. (i.e. Vinny's gambling, or the fact that he breaks up with his girlfriend).
  • Using the old archive footage, during the film, felt cheap, and uninspired.

I know exactly how to give up. You know what scares me Kev? Is that it's easy.

"Bleed for This" is based on the incredible true story of legendary boxer, Vinny Pazienza aka the "Pazmanian Devil." Although you'd think, after reading about his life story, that it sounds like something they made up for the film, but it's not. If anything, you could argue that Vinny was sort of the real life version of Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky." A huge underdog at times, who had to overcome near impossible odds, where everyone counted him out; only to prove them wrong. It sounds a little hard to believe, but life can be stranger than fiction at times.

Vinny Pazienza (played by Miles Teller) ends up in the hospital, after his epic title fight with George Mayweather. His injuries are so severe that even his own trainer tells reporters that it might be time for him to retire. But like most inspirational boxing films, Vinny refuses to quit. Defies the odds, and trains to get back in shape. Aided by his new trainer, Kevin Rooney (played by Dark Knight villain, Aaron Eckhart), who also has something to prove as well, as he was fired from being Mike Tyson's trainer because of his addictions to gambling and alcohol.

Needless to say, Rooney reluctantly agrees to train him, and it's from here that he decides to have him jump up two more weight classes, as he feels Vinny can hit harder with the more weight he puts on; hence making him more effective in a heavier weight class. Against his family's wishes, Vinny concedes to this idea, as they train for his next fight. And if you've seen every underdog cliche boxing film, then you already know the results of the fight.

Honestly, if this would've been the setup by itself, then "Bleed for This" might've been a halfway decent boxing film. Granted, it still would've been very cliche and predictable; similar to what we got with "Southpaw." However, it would've worked, as a solid inspirational underdog sports film, but they couldn't help themselves.

Not only do they show Vinny winning the title, but he gets into a serious car crash that nearly ends his life, after the fight. Breaking his neck so badly that doctors weren't even sure he was going to even be able to walk again; let alone even fight again.

With his neck broken, he opts to have the halo put into his skull, so his body can heal naturally. And like we saw earlier where almost everyone was telling him to give up, he refuses. Rooney reluctantly ends up training him again, so he can jump up two more weight classes for his comeback. Not sure why Rooney thought each comeback should warrant him moving up two weight classes at a time, but I guess it makes for entertainment. Anyway, he inevitably defies the odds to get better, and he fights for another title bout.

And like the first comeback story of the film, it ends pretty much exactly how you'd expect it to. Sure, they bring up little things like how he loved to gamble, before his fight with Roger Mayweather, and it shows how his girlfriend leaves him after his car accident. However, since that isn't the focus of the story, it never gets fully explored, which is why it makes those scenes a bit pointless, to even bring up.

Apart from a few minor changes, the rest of the movie was fairly accurate to what actually happened. For example, the film implies that it took Vinny at least a month before he began training again, after his car accident. But in real life, it only took him five days after the accident to go back to training. Why was this changed? Well, Ben Younger didn't think it would be believable for most audiences, so he changed it up a bit.

Look, I know you can't do much to change what actually happened in a biopic. After all, you want to try to be as historically accurate as you can, without compromising the story's quality. However, I don't see why both these comebacks had to be incorporated into one film.

As inspirational as they were, it made "Bleed for This" seem rather repetitive. If you had made each of the comebacks it's own story, then might've worked as a two part film series. Or at the very least, the first comeback story could've been reduced to a five or ten minute montage, as sort of a setup for the second one.

Well I guess I know now where Stallone got the idea of having Rocky Balboa don the traditional red, white and blue shorts for his character in the Rocky franchise.
Well I guess I know now where Stallone got the idea of having Rocky Balboa don the traditional red, white and blue shorts for his character in the Rocky franchise.

But as one whole film on it's own? It doesn't work because not only are you telling two different comeback stories with very predictable setups, but you're trying to tell them as one cohesive story. Not only does this make the moral seem rather repetitive, but it also feels rushed. Never giving you the chance to feel fully invested into the movie, and even if you do manage to get emotionally invested into the first come back, it drains so much out of you emotionally that you barely care about the second one.

Don't get me wrong, it sucks when anyone almost dies in a car wreck, as I wouldn't wish that upon anybody. However, if you tell two different stories that both feature eerily similar conflicts, in the same damn film, with the moral for each being, "never give up in the face of adversity", then chances are you'll probably find yourself getting bored by it.

In fact, it often feels like the film itself is beating you over the head with it's theme of "never give up."

Granted, you can argue that the "Rocky" films and "Southpaw" were guilty of hammering in that same moral too, but here's the thing. As predictable and cliche as those other boxing movies were, they knew how much was needed for the audience to feel invested.

You never saw Jake Gyllenhaal's character make two comebacks in a row, in "Southpaw." No, he only had to overcome one comeback, where his entire hopes of regaining custody of his daughter rested on him winning his big comeback fight against the champ. We saw how his character fell from grace so quickly, and how he literally lost everything. We saw how much it ate him up inside, and the torment he had to go through to train to get his life back. And because "Southpaw" took it's time to develop the hero's main arc, it felt like you were right there with him the whole time. It made the climax all the more sweeter because you felt like you were on an emotional journey with him. Each punch he took, the audience could feel his pain. And each time he got back up, we were right there rooting for him because he was such a likable character. "Southpaw" took it's time developing the story. And sure, you could argue it was a bit of a rip off of the "Rocky" films, but it was still a decent boxing film about a man overcoming adversity.

It's the same formula with any of the "Rocky" films. You never saw Stallone try to make both "Rocky II" and "Rocky III" into one film because it wouldn't have worked. Both stories deserved their own movie to tell it's story. If you would've combined both "Rocky II" and "Rocky III" Into one film, then it would've felt extremely repetitive. Not only would it mean that you'd have to rush through, and/or cut out, some crucial character developing moments to make it work, but it would also make the second come back arc seem anti climatic because it would feel like something of a rip off of the first one, which is exactly what happens in "Bleed for This."

Not only do both story arcs feel a bit rushed because they're being crammed into one film, but it only makes the second one seem less interesting at the end because it feels like a rip off of what you saw earlier in the movie. The point is when you make an underdog sports journey, you have to make it more about the experience of proving people wrong. This is why you never saw any of the "Rocky" films, or "Southpaw", rush through any of the adversity that the characters had to go through on screen. You never saw them skip through the training montages, as those were crucial in taking the audience on a journey. Whereas in "Bleed for This", they not only rush through a lot of training sequences, but because you exhaust so much energy getting invested into the first arc, you barely care about the second one.

And to make matters worse, they use some of the old archive footage to save money. For example. In one scene, when we're inside Vinny's house, we see Vinny training on TV, but here's the thing. They don't have Miles Teller re enact the scene that happened on TV ages ago. No, they literally put in the old archive footage on TV of Vinny Pazienza lifting weights, while donning his halo. According to Ben Younger and Vinny Pazienza, they felt that Miles was such a spitting image of Vinny that they felt they could get away with it, and even patted themselves on the back for how artistically clever it was allegedly.

Well if by artistically clever they actually mean cheap, then I'd have to agree wholeheartedly.

Normally, I'm always a sucker for cliche inspirational underdog sports movies, so it's a bit disappointing that I find myself resenting "Bleed for This." Maybe if the story was a tad better written, or directed, then maybe I'd care more about it. But as it stands right now? It's arguably one of the worst sports films ever made.

So unless you're just a huge fan of Vinny Pazienza, I'd say pass on this one altogether, as it's not worth your time.


© 2016 Steven Escareno

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