You might expect that a movie with a title like “Bleed for This” won’t always be easy to watch. And you would be correct.
The true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller, “Whiplash,” plays the man known as Vinny Paz or “The Pazmanian Devil”) is fascinating because of the main character’s determination. Is it a combination of bullheadedness or dimwittedness that drives his decisions?
The movie begins with a look at Vinny’s boxing career and family. His dad, Angelo (Ciarán Hinds), is certain that his son can have a lengthy career. His mother, Louise (Katey Sagal), refuses to watch her son’s televised fights —instead, she sits alone in a homemade chapel where she smokes and prays.
Regardless of Angelo’s beliefs, Vinny’s career is winding down. He is a passenger one day when another car crashes him into Vinny’s vehicle in an accident that leaves Vinny with a broken neck.
Vinny opts for a metal “halo,” which involves screws pushed into his skull, to aid his recovery. He is convinced that this months-long approach to recovery will give him a chance to get back in the ring again, although his doctors at first are doubtful whether he ever will walk.
Vinny remains determined to live as normally as possible. He insists that his family cart away the wheelchair while he makes his slow, deliberate way. He whacks his head a time or two as he gets in and out of vehicles (seeing this made me wince — Teller makes us feel his character’s pain).
Kevin Rooney, his trainer, is played by the marvelous Aaron Eckhart, one of my favorite actors I truly did not recognize for the first few minutes he was onscreen). Secretly, Vinny sets up a kind of gym in his parents’ basement, where he begins the long journey to his athletic recovery. “I know exactly how to give up. You know what scares me, is that it’s easy,” he tells Kevin.
This capable cast — which includes another favorite performer, Ted Levine, as a boxing promoter — never disappoints.
Director Ben Younger (“Prime” and “Boiler Room”) does not spare us wince-inducing moments such as the first time Vinny returns to a weight bench or the procedure of having his halo removed. Although viewers might question Vinny’s decisions, it’s impossible not to admire his pluck, even when he goes against the best wishes of his family and physicians.
This is a solid film about a man with a solid core of resolve.
P.S. Stay through the first few credits. It’s worth the wait.