Bleed for This is the true story of Vinny Paz (Miles Teller), the Providence boxer who won his first fight back in the ring just 13 months after breaking his neck in a car accident. This win has been considered one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, due to expectations that Paz might never even walk again, let alone fight. However, as interesting and unbelievable as this story is, the film is ultimately stale. The boxing genre has been stretched to its limits, and Bleed for This is just too unoriginal to stand out among the countless others.
Bleed for This is a story of redemption, but it plays like a back to back double feature. Our protagonist starts on top, gets knocked down, works his way back up again, then breaks his neck, and then finally works his way to the top. This makes for an awkwardly paced plot structure, causing the film to feel ultimately redundant as it drags on. In order to go into the movie blind, I didn’t research Vinny Paz at all, and yet I was still able to predict every beat of the plot down to the final scene. Bleed for This markets itself as, ‘(…)what the greatest comeback in sports history looks like,’ leaving little to the imagination in what to expect, but one aspect that I didn’t predict was the lack of any sort of character arc throughout the film. Vinny Paz starts out as an arrogant, stubborn fighter, and despite his ‘humbling’ car accident, he remains equally as arrogant and stubborn by the end of the film.
All the performances from the main cast including Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, and Ciaran Hinds are solid and engaging. However, between the over the top accents and hyper-masculinity, these characters quickly become more obnoxious than they are sympathetic.The weight and effectiveness of the film is entirely dependent on the viewer’s empathy towards Paz, which is why I was not the biggest fan. While I absolutely admire the perseverance it took for him to return from an injury like that, I had a hard time caring about his struggle. He’s a straight white man with money, glory and a loving family that supports him endlessly. His only driving force toward fighting again is his own desire for more and his arrogant refusal to sit still. So when he ‘surprisingly’ wins his first fight back in the ring, and the camera lingers between the cheering crowd and Teller’s ecstatic face, I was at a loss for enthusiasm.
Seeing as this was a boxing movie, I was expecting a macho atmosphere going into it, but not Miles-Teller-dropping-dollar-bills-on-his-girlfriend’s-tits-in-slow-motion macho. Now, I understand that the first act of the film was shot in a more bougie, stylized way to accentuate the status of Paz at this time; contrasted with the more typical, straightforward post-accident cinematography. However, there is no difference in Paz’s character to parallel these stylizations, and they come off as more pretentious and self-indulgent than artistic.
As a nonathletic person with little care for sports, I’m obviously not the target audience for a film like this. However, despite my disinterest in the subject matter, I went into Bleed for This with an open mind and would have been eager to enjoy a well-made film. But this film was simply far too predictable in its plot, and unappealing in the machismo of its characters and subject matter.