The Bleeder Review
I have never really got boxing, two people who just wail on each other and the person who is still standing after it wins. If this were done anywhere outside a boxing ring, then it would be considered a crime. However, boxing has done something for me, as a film nerd, it has given us some of the best sports movies ever made. The two that spring to mind are Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull and Sylvester Stallone's breakthrough smash hit Rocky. I did not know until recently that Rocky is actually based on a man called Chuck Wepner (the film is, at least Stateside, called Chuck), or the Bayonne Bleeder, a heavyweight boxer from New Jersey, who challenged Muhammad Ali for the World Championship; nobody thought he could last a round, he lasted 15. However, he never got his own biopic until now, the film is called The Bleeder.
The Bleeder is a film that follows Chuck Wepner to his boxing match with Muhammad Ali and beyond. Though he is a family man with a wife and daughter, the fame goes to his head and his life goes into a tail spin. It is a biopic that has the same plot as every other biopic about a famous person, except this time it's a boxer who finds fame, gets chewed up by it, loses his family and is spit out, finding who his true friends are along the way. The plot does not make this film standout because we have seen it before. It felt more like a check list of things that needed to be done; we see Chuck lose his family, go to jail, do drugs, fight a bear, realise how much of a cad he is and seek redemption. There isn't really anything that properly connects these disparate dots other than Chuck himself.
Stylistically there is nothing that really distinguishes it from the other "quality" biopics ether. No clever editing or cinematography other than some freeze frames, the use of stock footage and the occasional filter. This, combined with a plot that is so paint by numbers you could probably make a drinking game about it, means that I am having trouble identifying anything particular about The Bleeder, it has all become one homogenous mush in my memory.
That is not to say it is bad, it is just forgettable. It is really a shame because there are a lot of talented people involved in the making of the film. Liev Schreiber does a knock-out job as the lead; he lends a physicality and believable sounding voice to Chuck Wepner making him an arse but a sympathetic arse. The rest of the cast similarly do good work. Elisabeth Moss, Ron Perlman and Naomi Watts do solid work, though because of a lack of things to do they are under-utilised and also disposable, sort of like this whole film actually.
Apart from the main feature, there isn't really much to say about Lionsgate's release of the film. There are no other extras on the disc. The disc is well made with a good menu, clear subtitles and is something that functions well with no audio or video errors. I mean it works fine, but there is nothing else to really recommend purchasing the disc when I am sure it would be cheaper to rent or stream and you would get the same amount of enjoyment out of it.
All in all Lionsgate's packaging of The Bleeder is incredibly underwhelming. The movie itself doesn't really differentiate itself from the other "true story" films either stylistically, thematically or formally. We get that old tried and tested, nice-guy-with-flaws-falls-foul-seeks-redemption storyline we have seen time and time again. The acting is fine, I would expect nothing less from a cast such as this. It's a movie that I cannot really recommend because if you put it in a suspect line up I would have difficulty identifying it. Adding insult to injury is the lack of extras. Honestly, you are better off with Rocky, it's the better film and it has more to offer.