Late night on New Year’s Day I saw a 2016 film about a sportsman, desperate to prove himself in front of millions and show them he is the greatest. With the love and help of his friends and family (as well as a grumpy, has-been coach), he shows the world why hope and strength can make any dream come true!
No! I’m not talking about Creed. Try again!
Nope! Not Eddie the Eagle! Have another go!
It’s not Race! Guess again!
That’s right people! Vijay’s going to milk this joke for all it’s worth!
Oh alright, fine. I’ll get on with it.
[Spoilers for 2015’s Southpaw]
Vinny Paz (Miles Teller) is a hungry-for-fame 29 year old professional boxer. Recently crowned Junior Middleweight World Championship, it seems there’s no stopping this young buck from ascending into the stratosphere.
Alas, a devastating car crash resulting in Vinny’s broken neck means he must withdraw from professional boxing as his doctors say he most likely will never walk again.
But his passion for boxing knows no bounds. With the help of his coach Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) he begins a new training regime. Even though this is against the advice of his doctors, Vinny continues to fight, both physically and mentally, but can he ever return to the ring? (I’ll give you three guesses, but you’re only going to need one.)
Let’s be a little honest here. Haven’t you read that above description before? Just replace “broken neck” with “dead wife” and you’ve got 2015’s Southpaw. Change the time period to the 1930s and you’ve got Cinderella Man. Change the sport to Formula One and you’ve got Niki Lauda from Rush. Throw in an Oscar winning actor and you’ve got Daniel Day Lewis’s The Boxer.
That’s the fundamental problem with this movie… IT’S BEEN DONE! As the film hits every cliche and story beat that has been done hundreds of times previously, you start to wonder why they didn’t just title it “Boxing: The Movie!”
To a certain extent, it’s hard to not be reminded of the similar problem that Disney’s John Carter had to face back in 2012. John Carter (of Mars) made his debut appearance in magazine form all the way back in 1912. But over the next 100 years there were literally 100s of films, books and TV shows that took inspiration from these stories. Popular and critical acclaimed pieces of work such as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Dune and Avatar have all taken inspiration from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Because of this, by the time John Carter was released in 2012, everything about it felt like it had been done before. This is the exact problem that Bleed For This suffers in spades from.
That’s not to say the film itself is terrible or isn’t competently made. Director Ben Younger does a reasonable job in giving a sense of intimacy during each bout, as well as brilliantly showcasing a shocking head-on car collision
What does save this movie from the utter doldrums though is an above average cast. Teller does in great job playing a hot-headed bad boy, and manages to effectively portray his transformation as he works through his rehabilitation process.
Likewise, Eckhart is similarly committed to his role by not only providing the film’s best comedic moments, but also helping to bring a sense of complexity and pathos to his character’s relationship with Paz.
But regardless of the calibre of the acting, Bleed For This never quite manages to overcome the banality of its plot or succeed in bringing anything interesting to the oversaturated world of boxing movies.