"Bleed For This" earns its blood, sweat and tears


*** (R)

Although "Bleed For This" does not break any new ground when it comes to Boxing movies, I was thoroughly absorbed by some moments in Ben Younger's latest film. No, it's no "The Fighter" or "Creed," those were two groundbreaking boxing movies that tried to reshape the way we saw the genre. "Bleed For This" is about it performances and, sometimes, great performances and solid direction can crack through an ordinary screenplay.

Teller is a joy to watch. Playing former champion Vinny Paz, Teller bings terrific intensity in his portrayal of the "Pazmanian Devil" a man that could never be counted out, even after a career threatening injury almost left him paralyzed. Teller never loses sight of the humanity, and cockiness, of Paz and it's in that realness of character that we come like the character.

His coach, Kevin Rooney, is hilariously played by a balding Aaron Eckhart, another possible, deserving Oscar nominee. Eckhart is one of the great unsung character actors and, these last few years, he's struggled to really gain back some of the momentum he had going in the late 90s and early 2000s with  performances "In The Company of Men," "Erin Brokovich," "Nurse Betty," and "Thank You For Smoking." Now he's had a kind of rejuvenation with this film and Clint Eastwood's "Sully."

The chemistry between Eckhart and Teller is the heart and soul of the film. The best boxing films are the ones that focus as much of their time on the goings on outside of the ring as much as in it. That's where Younger gets it right here. He decides to focus his attention much more on the characters than the actual ring. Wise choice, the cliches only start to appear once the final fight starts, before that the passion in the filmmaking and performances is beautifully rendered and showcases how driven an individual Paz had to be to get back to his best in the ring.
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