Bleed for This is based on the true story of Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza, a boxer based out of Providence, Rhode Island in the 1980’s. The movie follows Pazienza (Miles Teller) as he begins to rise to fame under his new manager, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart). Pazienza is a determined and ferocious boxer, who prefers taking a bunch of hits before he lays it on his opponents. Under Rooney’s training, Paz becomes a world title winner, finally on top of the world as one of the best boxers around. Tragically, a nearly fatal car accident leaves Paz with a broken neck, unsure if he will ever walk again. Paz, however, refuses to have his spine fused, convinced that he will recover and return to the sport he loves so much.
Watching Bleed for This made me realize how similar the plots to most boxing movies are, without really doing anything to distract me from the fact that I feel as though I’ve seen this exact movie before. The story of a champion who falls on hard times and is forced to crawl their way back to stardom and redemption is not a new one, and thus the movie required great characters and performances to make the generic story interesting. Unfortunately, Paz and Rooney don’t feel like new or interesting interpretations of this story. I understand the movie is based on facts, but the dialogue that these characters are given does little to distinguish them from similar characters in other boxing films. Every part of the plot and character writing seems same-ish, and though the performances from Teller and Eckhart are good, the material they are given is not enough to make the story interesting.
Fortunately, some aspects of the editing and sound design make the movie fun to watch. The film employs quite a bit of interesting choices regarding how things are pieced together, especially in a sequence early on where Paz ends up in the hospital after a fight. The punch that knocks him out and sends him to the ER rings in Paz and the audience’s ears as the scattered and jumpy editing shows the cobbled together moments of his trip to the hospital. Creative editing and sound design-based moments like these keep the movie fresh, even though the sums of its parts is fairly familiar and overdone.
Bleed for This has basically everything one would expect out of a boxing movie, but not in a particularly good way. Aside from some good sound design and editing, the film follows the same beats as most other, frankly better, boxing films. And while many aspects of the film are not poorly done, the generic nature of the story and characters makes it difficult to recommend. If you are interested in seeing a film that follows all of the regular conventions of a boxing movie, check it out. But, if you are looking for innovation on the genre, there is little here that will leave you feeling satisfied.