Bleed For This is a slice of the career of five-time world champion boxer, Vinny Pazienza (played by Miles Teller).
After a nearly fatal accident; Pazienza is determined to return to the ring against the wishes of his family, friends and training team.
Paz has a heck of a story, which makes it all the more surprising he isn’t well-known by recent generations of boxing fans. With a new surge of boxing movies (Hands of Stone, Creed, Southpaw), something about Bleed For This feels familiar, yet different.
For one, the fight sequences, though not the center of the film, are some of the best I’ve seen. I enjoyed that the movie didn’t rely on the spectacle of sequences, which many do to overcompensate for lackluster script.
Teller delivers a solid performance that’s assisted by Aaron Eckhart’s role as Pazienza’s coach, Kevin Rooney. Unlike many coach-fighter narratives, their roles aren’t heavily dependent on chemistry. For this film though, it doesn’t really matter. The film focuses less on Paz and Rooney’s relationship and more on the amazing feat they’re trying to pull off.
My only grievance is that Bleed For This misses an opportunity to explore the in-depth reasons why Pazienza is who he is. The film touches on the usual themes of redemption and toughness, but these are already well-known narratives in boxing.
Boxing has a lot of tough guys. Not just mentally tough, but guys that are tough for no reason. In the film, Pazienza is one of those dudes. He takes unnecessary punishment; he pushes his training limits against the advice of his coach; he chooses to endure excruciating pain. He’s all about the means, but what about the ends?
In the movie, he’s asked by a reporter about the biggest lie he’s been told in boxing, to which he responds, “it’s not that simple.” He says that people always say, “it’s not that simple,” to get a person to quit, but by doing the thing they said can’t be done, you can prove it was simple all along.
When we hear lines like this, we get the feel-good message that we can do the impossible, that we can overcome any obstacle we put our mind to.
But for me, I still needed to probe below the surface. It became evident to me that Pazienza always felt like he had something to prove, which his coach calls him out on during training. Yet, I still had no real understanding of why Pazienza felt this way.
I’d be lying if I said I knew who Paz was before this film, but I have a greater respect for the small, but powerful stories, and the fighters that don’t always make the history books.
Overall, Bleed For This is a solid film. Not worth bleeding over, but perhaps you’ll leave appreciating the fighters that do.
Learn more about Vinny Paz at his official website.