Don’t call it a comeback.
I always like stumbling on a biopic of a person I never herd of whose story is unbelievably awesome. Hacksaw Ridge springs to mind. Also, The Karate Kid Part III. When it comes to boxing, a sport I have only a fleeting knowledge of thanks mostly to Mike Tyson’s Punch-out, there are a metric ton of amazing true-life sagas out there to discover (at least for me to discover).
So here we have Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller). Bleed for This tells his story. In the early ’80s Vinny Pazienza (also known as Vinny Paz) was a legit fighter, winning the junior middleweight world title in 1991. But then a brutal head-on car collision derailed his career–and almost ended his life.
Unwilling to relinquish boxing, Vinny embarked on an on-its-face ludicrous comeback attempt, even thought he was spending every day in a neck stabilizer. Despite everyone’s best (sane) efforts to convince him to just retire and try to recapture a normal life that didn’t have a pervasive threat of forever paralysis, Vinny worked at achieving his goal: getting back into the ring for a shot at boxing immortality.
This is a pretty good one. I’m not the biggest Miles Teller fan in the world, but the guy brings it in Bleed for This. He’s just a ball of obnoxious defiance and smugness and his Vinny Paz becomes a fascinating on-screen sight to behold. Thankfully, the film has more going for it than just a bad-ass performance. The story of this comeback is insane, especially as you see Miles Teller decked out in the “Halo” neck stabilizer, the real-life apparatus that screwed directly into Vinny’s skull.
What makes Bleed for This worth chasing down, especially if you’ve got “boxing movie fatigue,” is the true-life nature of t his comeback. It’s simply incomprehensible the ambition it takes for a human being to climb back into a the ring to get his brains bashed in just a few months after suffering such a gruesome accident.
You get that whole trajectory here, anchored by Teller’s great performance, and capped with an exciting final boot with WBC World Jr. Middleweight Champion Luis Santana. Soup to nuts, Bleed for This works, both as a straight-up sports movie and an examination of what the human spirit is capable of, screws and all.