POOR MILES TELLER. The guy’s not even 30 yet and it already feels like he’s in major need of a comeback. After achieving indie-darlinghood with The Spectacular Now and Whiplash, he celebrated by taking the lead role in the catastrophic Fantastic Four reboot and getting called a dick. Now reduced to co-starring with Jonah Hill in shitty comedies, he probably saw a metaphor for his own career in the character of Vinny Pazienza, the protagonist of the boxing flick Bleed for This.
At least, if he’s as narcissistic as he seems to be, he probably did.
Pazienza was a Providence, Rhode Island-based fighter with world championships in two weight classes to his credit when he was in a car accident in 1991 and broke his neck. Against doctor’s orders, without the knowledge of his dad (Ciarán Hinds), and with a stabilizing brace still screwed into his skull, he resumed workouts under the direction of loyal trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart). Eventually, of course, he returned triumphantly to the ring.
This is a boxing movie that never dares to think outside the box. (It pulls its punches. Its bull never rages. Et cetera.) Vinny, despite his misfortunes, isn’t a sympathetic character. The film finds integrity in ignoring sane advice and nobility in the endurance of easily avoidable pain. Maybe I’m just not a two-dimensional working-class, New England knucklehead, but it didn’t click for me.
Vinny Paz (he legally changed his last name in 2001) has claimed that Bleed for This “did not exaggerate on anything.” Except that he wore the halo-shaped brace for three months, rather than six, as the film says. And his first bout after the injury was against a guy named Luis Santana, not World Super Middleweight champ Roberto Duran (that came a year and a half later). But what are a few facts when a guy’s trying to get his Hollywood mojo back?
Whether he deserves it or not, though, Teller will have more opportunities to climb back in that A-list ring. If he were a woman, he’d be thought of as “almost thirty” instead of “not yet thirty,” and the industry would be ready to toss him on the has-been scrap heap. Keep fighting, Miles!