“A troubled boxer. A committed coach. A horrifying accident. A whole lot of tears and yelling.” Time Out‘s Tom Huddleston: “Overall, Bleed for This is difficult to dislike: the story may be hokey but it’s real, and so is the sentiment behind it. The direction by Boiler Room veteran Ben Younger is solid, and the story is undeniably compelling. But it just never quite scrapes the heights of bigger, better boxing movies, from Raging Bull to Creed—the ringside scenes never knock you back, and the script verges on complacency. Bleed for This works up a good sweat, but it never quite lands that killer punch.”
“As with so many of the movies from which it cribs, the moral of Bleed for This is that determination alone can rescue you from the depths of despair and deliver you to the finish line, that talent isn’t half as important as tenacity,” writes David Ehrlich at Indiewire. “That may be true in the movies, but it’s seldom the case in real life—it may be true in making a film, but it’s hardly ever the case in making them good.”
“Though every boxing movie since Raging Bull owes Scorsese some measure of gratitude (he serves as executive producer here), Bleed for This actually borrows more from David O. Russell’s The Fighter,” finds Variety‘s Peter Debruge. “Clearly inspired by that film’s wild energy and near-feral depiction of its central family, Younger elevates Pazienza’s eccentric Rhode Island clan almost to the point of caricature, with their big hair, wacky home furnishings, and quarrelsome chemistry. The camera simply can’t sit still when watching its agitated protagonist, his high-pressure dad (Ciarán Hinds, who can bellow with the best of them), foul-mouthed sister Doreen (Amanda Clayton), and superstitious mom Louise (Katey Sagal)—all of them looking like contenders in a bad-80s-hair contest (another Russell-Esque affectation).”
“All production values, notably Larkin Seiple’s vigorous camerawork and Kay Lee’s evocatively banal production design, contribute to soaking the viewer in a convincingly moldy, sweaty, tawdry environment,” writes the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy.
At the Playlist, Chris Willman notes that a “quick denouement after the final bout promises some kind of life lesson that the hero has learned via his comeback, but all it amounts to is a few sentences Vinny offers a reporter about the importance of always doing the things that people insist you can’t do—a sophomoric declaration treated as if it’s the wisdom of Sophocles. Which still leaves open the question begged by the title: Bleed for what, again, exactly?”
Update, 9/18: For Robert Koehler, writing for CinemaScope, “the staging and storytelling are standardized, an act of going through the motions rather than burrowing inside the mind of an athlete who would rather risk life-ending injury than quit. By any rational gauge, Vinny Paz was crazy to do what he did, and what nails his story as a seemingly surefire movie is that he recovered, trained, and defeated Luis Santana by unanimous decision in his first fight back in the ring. (The script condenses this period, and depicts his unprecedented comeback as against Roberto Duran, who was actually the sixth fighter that Paz faced and won since his accident.) Bleed for This flinches from plunging into the madness, the place where a truly interesting movie resides. Instead, it flounders in the lightweight division.”
The 2016 fall film festival indexes: Venice, Telluride and Toronto.