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Miles Teller is committed and intense in “Bleed for This”

miles teller bleed for this in ring

When you mix a talented young actor with the Oscar bait that is a boxing film, you almost always get an awards contender. This week, a new one opens in Bleed for This, which has Miles Teller in the lead role. Is it a lot like other recent boxing movies? Yes. Does that mean it’s not able to stand on its own? No, especially with how good Teller is. This flick obviously hopes to make a dent with Oscar at the end of the year, but whether or not that happens, it’s a worthwhile true life sports tale with a tremendous performance at its center.

The film is based on the true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza (Teller), who staged one of the sport’s greatest comeback stories. A scrappy fighter who always took too many shots to the head, he also has had to deal with an overprotective family, including a manager in father Angelo (Ciarán Hinds) and worrisome mother Louise (Katey Sagal). Vinny finally becomes champion under the tutelage of Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), only to see it taken away when he’s in a terrible car accident. Not only that, his injuries are so severe that his doctor suggests there’s no guarantee he’ll ever walk again. Refusing a spinal fusion surgery, he begins arduous rehab, not just set on walking again, but on stepping into the ring and fighting again. Obviously, if you know Pazienza’s story, you know how this ends, but the journey is what’s noteworthy here. Ben Younger directs as well as co-writes with Pippa Bianco and Angelo Pizzo, while the supporting cast includes Ted Levine, Christine Evangelista, Tina Casciani, Amanda Clayton, and more. Larkin Seiple is behind the camera handling the cinematography.

miles teller in corner
Teller is fantastic here. He commits to the part in such a way that you see not just a physical transformation, but a mental one as well. It’s easily one of his best performances to date. Eckhart is solid too, though Teller is the reason to see this film. Yesterday I attended a tribute to Teller, which wasn’t specifically in regard to this movie, but is timed to the release. He received the Granite Award from Stonestreet Studios and gave a wonderful acceptance speech. He spoke beautifully about his respect for actors and acting, showcasing humility and an everyman personality that has served him well. I can only imagine how charming he could be on the campaign trail. Bleed for This might not end up getting him his first nod, but he’s certainly on that path, considering his talent.

Awards wise, Bleed for This is probably going to have a very focused campaign, centered on trying to make Teller happen. That being said, an across the board FYC ad would feature Best Picture, Best Director (for Younger), Best Actor (for Teller), Best Supporting Actor (for Eckhart and/or Hinds), Best Supporting Actress (for Sagal), Best Original Screenplay (for Bianco, Pizzo, and Younger), and Best Film Editing. Again, it’s probably Actor or bust here, with Teller having an outside chance to make a dent in the race. Should he happen, there’s also the possibility that Eckhart gets pulled in for Supporting Actor as well. Time will tell. Teller deserves the nom, it’s just whether it comes to pass or not.

Here again is what I would consider to be Teller’s ten best performances to date:

10. Footloose
9. War Dogs
8. That Awkward Moment
7. Get a Job
6. 21 and Over
5. Two Night Stand
4. Bleed for This
3. Rabbit Hole
2. The Spectacular Now
1. Whiplash

Honorable Mention: Project X

Overall, Bleed for This, opening on Friday, is a solid boxing drama with a really strong lead performance coming from Teller. Eckhart is solid in a supporting role and all of the ingredients are well handled, but Teller is why you see this film. It’s a movie that really exists to showcase its actor. In that regard, Teller is aces. The odds don’t favor him getting an Academy Award nomination this year, but I think we can all agree, it’s a matter of when for him, not if. In the meantime, give this flick a shot, especially if you dig the boxing genre or are a fan of Teller’s. He knocks this one out of the part with a knockout performance, to mix my sports metaphors…

Be sure to check out Bleed for This, opening in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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