Based on the incredible real-life story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza and his inspiring come-back after a near fatal accident that left him uncertain whether he would walk again and with a metal halo screwed into his skull. Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, Ted Levine, Jordan Gelber and Amanda Clayton. Written and directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room, Prime).
Teller has been on the rise ever since his breakout performance in Whiplash, this role of Pazienza was a chance for him to live up to that but sadly that opportunity will not be taken. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise given that Whiplash given that since then, the closest thing to a decent film that he’s appeared in is Divergent and that’s being generous. In all fairness, it’s a great role and he does by all accounts give a huge commitment, especially physically but he simply lacks that real sympathy and emotion that would take the performance to the level you expect. The same goes for the most of the cast, with Eckhart coming closest to something more effective, they all perform well but there’s just nothing much to talk about but given the choices in directing, what they could achieve was fairly limited to begin with.
Younger’s directorial debut, Boiler Room was received well on release, 16 years ago but with his only other feature appearing 5 years later and none since then, tackling such a big project didn’t quite seem like a logical plan and you can clearly see that while watching the film. The strength, determination and resilience that the story holds is massively underserved and just barely makes its way into the film, the emotional connection with the audience is completely overlooked, it feels almost like the events are kept at arms length. Which is most likely a direct consequence of the awful choices of direction and editing, making the film feel like a sequence of events just strung together with no strong continuity or flow; the pivotal fight scenes are butchered in a way that every moment a big hit should land, the camera turns cuts to another angle, all the time completely undermining itself. Worsened even further but the choice, or lack there of, of score which at points feels like a simple static has been added, to what purpose it’s unclear as it adds nothing of value.
There are some well done moments, particularly the crash that results in Pazienza’s injury but even then the emotion and deeper connection are still missing, while Teller struggles to be relatable. It’s an inspiring story that gives the film more credit that it deserves, while not doing it justice and feels simply like bad film-making at moments, it’s entirely missing the heart and soul that would have made it work.