By Last Caress.
In 1987, Rhode Island boxer Vincenzo “Vinny” Pazienza – also known as The Pazmanian Devil – won the IBF Lightweight Championship of the World in his home town of Providence. As he got bigger he began struggling to make the weights but, following three defeats for world titles in the Light Welterweight division, Vinny finally became a two-weight champion in 1991 having stepped up a couple of divisions to beat Gilbert Dele for the WBA Light Middleweight World title, once again in his home town. For a guy jumping up two weight classes who had lost his previous three title fights and was now struggling as a credible draw, it was a hell of a comeback.
Then, late in 1991, Vinny was involved in a head-on motoring collision with another vehicle, which broke his neck and almost severed his spinal cord altogether, leaving doctors uncertain as to whether he would ever walk again. Box again? Pfft, forget that. That was over, and his title was relinquished.
Vinny, however, wasn’t prepared to accept that his career was finished. With a tightly-fitted “halo” brace screwed to his skull, he began a training regime in secret and against strict doctor’s orders which culminated, thirteen months after his car crash, in a points victory over future light-middleweight champ Luis Santana. Three years later (and having gone up ANOTHER couple of weight divisions), Vinny’s ultimately unsuccessful tilt at the WBC Light Welterweight title versus Roger Mayweather (Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s uncle), and ending in the delirium of that win in Atlantic City against the “Hands of Stone”. But is it any good?. This comeback didn’t just put his previous already-impressive comeback in the shade, it was – and still is – considered by most to be arguably the greatest sporting comeback of all time. Bleed For This tells that story, starting at the press conference for
Well, yes. Fans of Pazienza – who changed his name legally to Vinny Paz in 2001 – should find plenty to enjoy here and I consider myself to be in that bracket. Performances are terrific across the board, particularly from Aaron Eckhart as Mike Tyson’s former trainer Kevin Rooney, caught between wanting to help Vinny and wanting not to kill him, and from Ciarán Hinds and Katey Sagal as Angelo and Louise, Vinny’s parents; and Ted Levine is almost as monstrous here as the odious Lou Duva than he was way-back-when as Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb in Silence of the Lambs (1991). Miles Teller often feels quite distant to me and, even here, he doesn’t quite nail the inherent likeability of The Pazmanian Devil but he’s warmer than I’ve ever seen him, and his physical performance really captures Vinny’s style. Writer/director Ben Younger’s direction is low key, not something one might expect or hope for from a real-life Rocky but it works well, bringing the human relationships to the fore. It’s not faultless: Bleed For This plays fast and loose with the timeline of events, making Vinny’s 1994 bout against Roberto Duran his comeback fight after the crash when in fact Paz had six other matches between the crash and the Duran fight, not least of which was an 11th-round knockout of Canadian Dan Sherry for the vacant IBO World Super-Middlewight title. But it’s an understandable enough jump for the purpose of a bit of dramatic license although, considering the release four months prior to that of Bleed For This of Roberto Duran’s own biopic Hands of Stone (in which Duran’s two defeats to Pazienza are glossed over), it seems to me the boxing industry has missed an opportunity to do a “Marvel” and pull together its own cinematic universe, as everyone seems to be doing lately. Placing some real footage of Vinny Paz alongside the closing credits was a nice touch, though.
Icon Entertainment’s 2.40:1, 1080p blu-ray presentation is clean and clear, if spartan and a little lacking in additional content. The main feature follows skippable trailers for City of Tiny Lights and for Personal Shopper, both receiving wide general releases this year.
Inspired By a Legend: Short promotional piece featuring several of the main players (writer/director Ben Younger, Aaron Eckhart, Miles Teller, Vinny Paz himself among others) simply citing their enthusiasm for making the movie (2:39)
An Authentic World: Another short promotional piece again featuring the same people as in the first piece, this time focussing on filming Bleed For This on location, and on trying to have Miles Teller carry himself in the fight scenes like Vinny Paz as opposed to performing in some generic boxing manner (2:46)
Theatrical Trailer (2:02)
Deleted Scenes: Six in total (10:06)
Bleed For This is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Monday, 27/03/2017.
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