Ben Younger, the writer-director of Boiler Room and Prime, chose fantastic source material for his latest feature, which further proves boxing to be the best sport upon which to build a feature film. I had never heard of world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), but it is as uplifting a sports story as you will hear this year. The Providence, RI pugilist was on top of the world when a nearly fatal car crash left him in a halo, possibly never to walk and certainly never to box again. The “Pazmanian Devil” proved doctors wrong and posted one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Much like the similarly themed The Fighter, Bleed for This boasts a load of top performances that should vie for awards shortlists. Teller is the anti-Shia LeBeouf, confounding and impressing with each new performance. Aaron Eckhart, sporting a bald pate and paunch as Mike Tyson’s former trainer Kevin Rooney, finally has his awards-reel moments.
The laudable duo is buttressed by Ciaran Hinds and Katey Sagal as Vinny’s supportive, frightened parents and Ted Levine—who gets my vote for this year’s best hair and makeup—as yet another skeezy boxing promoter, Lou Duva. Bleed for This might not be a title contender, but it gets enough heart and soul from its cast and story to go the distance.