By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

In 1991, professional boxer Vincenzo Pazienza, aka “Vinny Paz,” not long after winning the junior middleweight world title, suffered a severe neck injury in an automobile accident. Told by doctors that he would never completely recover and box again, Vinny thumbed his nose at his prognossis and naysayers, and managed to rehabilitate himself back to fighting condition.  Based on Paz’s true story, the inspirational movie Bleed For This details the events prior to Paz’s accident, the process of his miraculous recovery, and his triumphant return to boxing.  Actor Miles Teller stars as Vinny, and once again, delivers an excellent performance.

During the 1980s and 1990s, boxer Vinny Paz makes a name for himself as an unpolished, but brash bruiser in the boxing world.  After failing to win a title in the junior welterweight division, Paz, at the encouragement of his new trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) moves up to the junior middle weight division, where he would eventually win the title.  Paz would face a brand new struggle in life following a catastrophic car accident that would leave him with a broken neck.  Pressured to voluntarily relinquish his title, Vinny has no idea what to do with himself, and decides that he must return to boxing, regardless of the warnings of his doctors, trainer and family.

Written and directed by Ben Younger, based on a story written by Younger, Pippa Bianco, and Angelo Pizzo, Bleed For This does a fine job recreating Pazienza’s amazing story with both excellent and solid work by the cast, but suffers from the usual cliches and tropes associated with boxing movies.  With the exception of Raging Bull, most boxing movies, whether factual or fictional, often tell stories of triumph over adversity, and Bleed For This is no exception. The writing and presentation isn’t all that bad, but it does little to set this boxing movie apart from so many others.  Granted, one cannot deny how compelling the story truly is and the mostly outstanding performances by the cast help in establishing a heartfelt connection with movie audiences.

The movie offers great work by Katey Sagal and Ciaran Hinds who both star as Vinny’s parents Louise and Angelo Pazienza.  Actress Amanda Clayton brings sharp wit and attitude to her turn as Vinny’s “ball-busting” sister Doreen Pazienza.  Miles Teller brings that same level of attitude and energy to another excellent starring role as the stubborn and bull-headed Vinny Paz, a fighter who does things with his own flair and style and who refuses retire gracefully from boxing because of his debilitating injury.  Teller offers a passionate and fiery performance that has just enough wit and charisma to win the hearts of audience members.  Another outstanding performance comes from Aaron Eckhart, who portrays Vinny’s reluctant, but understanding trainer Kevin Rooney.

Even though this movie doesn’t redefine the boxing movie, the amazing true story behind it and the performances make it one worth watching.  This movie might manage to earn Teller and Eckhart some awards nominations, but I’m thinking the film itself will not probably make the cut. Nevertheless, like the real Vinny Paz, this movie has a crowd-pleasing quality to it and deserves some attention.  Teller continues to impress with this performance and I will continue to look forward to more showcases of his acting prowess.

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