2016 seemed to be a good year for sports: The Olympics. Yes, that was very good, wasn’t it? Uum…Conor McGregor saying things, he’s a funny guy, isn’t he? Err…England winning the Six Nations…and…well…I’m sure there was a lot of other stuff…football stuff. Yeah, there was probably a lot of that. Let’s say that a lot of football stuff happened. I’m not one for sports, you see – I hated having to participate in games at school, mainly because of an intrinsic physical laziness, but also because I had the co-ordination of a pissed-up piano playing elephant. For example, if I ever had the misfortune of playing the kick-ball thingy game, I would inevitably find myself in position of goalie or defender, praying to some kind of UEFA Buddha God for the ball not to roll anywhere near my general proximity – whenever it (inevitably) did though, I’d charge straight at it, cunt-punting it as high as possible, preferably so high above the pitch that, like Icarus, it would touch the sun and spontaneously combust into a million tiny shreds of leather so that the game would be called off.
This never happened though, so although I did earn the suspiciously innocuous nickname, ‘Twinkle Toes Tony,’ sports was something that would never cherish me into its bosom. As far as sports and I go, I’m happy to watch other people being happy, but it’s just not for me.
I have a similar feeling towards Boxing – two men pommelling each other mercilessly until the other person’s brain swells up so much that they lose consciousness or fall hilariously onto the canvas, sometimes twitching in spasmodic jolts like a criminal being tasered by the police, just doesn’t really sit well with me. It’s a sport that has been going on since the days of sodomy so maybe there is something inherently wired into our brains that demands the satisfaction of blood and sweat, possibly because we’ve become so socially civilised over the decades that the primal, reptilian urge that lies dormant within us need a little coaxing out once in a while.
‘Bleed for this,’ is the ‘based on a true story,’ boxing flick directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room) and starring Miles Teller (Whiplash, Divergent Series) as blue-collar bruiser Vinny Pazienza (Paz), known as the Rhode Island ‘Pazmanian Devil.’
Hot on the heels of Creed and Southpaw, Bleed for This starts in 1988 with Vinny staying up too late in Las Vegas the night before a big fight, going on to lose that match. It’s his third in a row and in a televised interview his manager announces that perhaps he should retire from boxing. Galvanised by potentially being dropped from boxing altogether, Coach Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) is brought in to help him win another bout. After breaking his neck in a car crash, Pazienza defies doctor’s advice and gets back in the ring. That may be a very short and concise summary, but it’s really an underdog story as old as time – it’s familiarity interchangeable with any other boxing film you may have seen in the past.
The fight scenes are swift and fleeting, whilst the editing snips from scene to scene effortlessly, but the biopic did something that I haven’t experienced for a while – it made me want to look into Vinny’s life outside of the movie and find out more about him. His bulldog of a father (played by Ciaran Hinds) and worrying mother (Katey Sagal) add the accustomed and clichéd touch of a dysfunctional family around the dinner table, worried that he’s risking his life in the ring, but the films’ real heart shows in its second chapter when Vinny gets his ‘Halo’ Frankenstein-like neck brace. Pazienza had to battle back from surgery and there is a real feeling of heartfelt determination in this segment – but all the while it’s hard to watch Bleed for This without humming the theme tune to Rocky in your head, so if you want a conscientious but understated boxing film, “Bleed for This” more than offers an inspiring version of Pazienza’s story; however if you want a good ‘ol romp then there are a plethora of classics in the archive to choose from.
Review by Anthony Self
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