Released by: Universal
Released on: February 14, 2017
Directed by: Ben Younger
Cast: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Ciaran Hinds, Katey Segal, Ted Levine, Kimberly Howe, Christine Evangelista, Amanda Clayton, Liz Carey, Gia Skova, Jordan Gelber
Year: 2016 Purchase From Amazon
Boxing movies are a dime a dozen, but that doesn't make them all bad. In fact, quite a few of them are terrific, from The Champ in 1931 to The Set-Up in 1949 to Best Picture Oscar-winner Rocky in 1976. Then there are masterworks ranging from Raging Bull (1980) to Warrior (2011) and Creed (2015). None of this is to suggest that every boxing film is excellent; there have been some real duds, including a number of Rocky sequels and the execrable Southpaw (2015). Most of these films have been designed as bait to lure Academy voters to award Best Actor nominations (think Robert De Niro, Joel Edgarton, Jake Gyllanhaal, and Michael B. Jordan). The same is true of Bleed for This, which was clearly designed as a star vehicle for up-and-coming talent Miles Teller.
Bleed for This follows the turbulent career of one Vincenzo Edward Pazienza (aka Vinny Paz), a boxer who, in the 1980s, took the East Coast by storm in a series of lightweight wins over better-known counterparts. As the '80s turned into the '90s, Pazienza moved up in weight divisions, and his career continued its upward trajectory. Then he was in a car accident that threatened his spinal cord. Forced to wear a Halo - a medical device screwed into the skull to prevent the neck from moving -Pazienza continued to train on the sly and against his doctors' orders. After the halo was removed, he returned to boxing, where he continued to do well into the early 2000s. He retired from boxing in 2004.
The film follows Paz's career, car accident, and recovery closely, though it generally ignores or glosses over the less savory aspects of the boxer's life, which included domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and passing bad checks, among other issues. The result is a watered-down tale of a perfect hero who would have been better served by the truth, which would have made him more recognizably human. Teller certainly isn't to blame for the script's veracity, however. He's excellent, easily holding his own against Aaron Eckhart and Katey Segal. In an ideal world, he would have been nominated for an Oscar (something he also deserved for Whiplash in 2014). Unfortunately, the usually reliable Ciaran Hinds hams it up as Paz's father, chewing the scenery with an embarrassing relish that manages to stink up the scenes in which he appears and makes Teller all the more believable and realistic.
Bleed for This was released in late 2016 to good reviews but poor box office receipts. In the end, it barely grossed more than its extremely low production budget, and the Academy Awards passed it by without so much as a second glance.
Universal has released Bleed for This on Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and looks good, at least in terms of detail. The director has a special affinity for images of hands, which may seem strange, but they do provide plenty of close-ups of wrinkled skin (since the hands mostly belong to older men). Fabrics and urban structures, mostly brick, also fare well. Where the image doesn't look so hot and this has a lot less to do with the transfer than with the director's tired cinematographic choices is in the color. Most color has been drained and replaced by monochromatic schemes. For examples, nighttime sequences tend toward a gold or amber color scheme; daylight sequences tend toward a bluish color scheme. In other words, Younger went with a tried and true formula for modern filmmaking, using color filters to change the appearance of the image, something that can be retired any day, thank you. The result is a film that doesn't look 'real' or natural but also doesn't seem stylish or original. The film is housed on a single BD50, which is more than adequate to hold it and its relatively few extras. (The film itself clocks in just shy of two hours, while the extras add only about 15 minutes.)
Universal has also included in the package a DVD containing the film in standard definition. While it doesn't look anywhere near as sharp as the BD, it still looks relatively sharp, though with that slight blur that is a trademark of the format. Both Blu-ray and DVD contain the same track, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There are a lot of thick upper Northeastern accents on display, most of them well realized by the actors, but they are sometimes difficult to understand, particularly when multiple people are engaged in a conversation at one time. Because of this, some viewers may choose to watch the film with the optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired switched on. (Note that there are also Spanish subtitles.) Other sounds fare quite well, and the track features a well-modulated mix that makes effective use of the various speakers.
When the disc is inserted into the BD player, the following trailers automatically begin: Deserto (2015), Nocturnal Animals (2016), Loving (2016), The Take (2016), and I Am Bolt (2016). There are seven deleted scenes, which can be played individually or all together: 'Dollar Table' (:55), 'Hospital Cafeteria' (1:16), 'Ticket Montage' (2:50), 'Family Dinner' (2:19), 'Diner' (1:52), 'Training Vinny' (1:24), and 'Out To Dinner' (1:33). Most of them are minor character bits that add little to the overarching narrative. 'Family Dinner' has some funny moments but probably seemed repetitive given the amount of time already dedicated to family meals.
There are two featurettes: 'Inspired By a Legend' runs 2:44 and features very brief interview snippets with Younger, Teller, and Pazienza; 'An Authentic World' runs 2:52 and features brief interview snippets with Eckhart, Teller, Younger, and others. Both featurettes are simply too short to add much to one's knowledge of the film, but they're better than nothing.
The Final Word:
Bleed for This is a decent affair, a film made watchable by mostly great performances (particularly Teller, who rightfully steals the film from a number of better-known colleagues). Unfortunately, the direction is a bit stolid and color filters minimize an otherwise stellar transfer. There are an adequate number of extras, and the sound remains mostly strong. All in all, this is two hours worth wasting, but you probably won't want to revisit the film.
Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.
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