The story of boxer Vinny Pazienza's comeback from a nearly paralyzing spinal injury is true. In fact, the way he came back from the injury is, as depicted in Ben Younger's latest film "Bleed for This", is also true. It was a very interesting story that gives credence to the Nike saying, "Just Do It".


For those who follow boxing, this was probably a very interesting story - especially for the Vegas odds makers and people live in Rhode Island - but those outside the sport are probably saying, "Who?" Exactly; he fought at a time when Mike Tyson, Macho Camacho and Roy Jones dominated the boxing news. (In fact he fought and lost to both Camacho and Jones). His weight classes of Lightweight, Light middleweight and super middleweight were simply populated my more recognizable names at that time.


Suitable cast to play Pazienza is Miles Teller, who is a fine actor who hasn't really caught the eye of the public despite being in a few noteworthy films. He played in the "Divergent" series, "Whiplash" and "Fantastic Four". He's the one you probably refer to as Oh, that guy. Teller belongs to the generation of actors including Anna Kendrick, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Shailene Woodley who are still finding their way through the Hollywood shuffle and trying to make a name - though people find it easier to say "Oh, that guy."

Thus lies the problem with "Bleed For This": Making the film something to be excited about. Miles Teller is a developing actor trying to make a limited interest figure interesting. Though it was a fictitious story, "Whiplash" worked because J.K. Simmons made the demonically driven Fletcher extremely captivating while Teller's Andrew character ultimately became an afterthought.


This time, Teller gets into a East coast Italian accent and steps into the ring to fight all comers. It opens with Pazienza getting his face pounded by Roger Mayweather while Pazienza's family and friends watch. His mother (played dutifully by Katey Sagal) can't watch while his dad (convincingly played by Ciaran Hinds) lives vicariously through his tough son. In fact, you get the feeling that his dad would rather Vinny get beaten to death rather than throw in the towel.


When top promoters Lou and Dan Duva (Ted Levine and Jordan Gelber) hint that Vinny might be washed up, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) is brought in to re-train him. The decision is made to move him up in weight class so he can fight at a more natural weight, which works. He starts to win again and everything is rosy. However, while out after a victory, Vinny is involved in a traffic accident and breaks his neck. He is given no little chance to walk again, let alone any chance to box. But through dogged determination...


And this is where the film will either capture your imagination of completely lose you while Vinny and Kevin work to get him back into shape while wearing a halo neck brace. A side story about Kevin's alcoholism never develops and it becomes rather dull watching the stereotyping of an East Coast Italian family. In all reality, this is a film that could have been coupled with "Hands of Stone" (the Roberto Duran biopic) and improved both.


It probaby would have been more interesting if Vinny had been injured in the ring. But instead it was a traffic accident - just like Stevie Wonder, Stephen King, and a few other celebrities. But seriously, are you interested in how Stevie Wonder came back from a near-death car accident in time to write Songs In The Key of Life? Probably not. And that is the single biggest problem with the film, despite Teller's fairly decent effort.


In most movies, it generally works out pretty well if there is a villain. In a boxing movie that villain could be another boxer or a shady promoter. This offers neither; it simply exists.


"Bleed For This" is technically well done, though not a jaw dropping film centered around the determined human spirit of a boxer; but it could have used a bit more boxing and a lot more anger or evil to amp up the otherwise dull characters.   -- GEOFF BURTON