The world of boxing is known for its machismo and toughness, but sometimes boxing can be an exploration into the human psyche, as well as revealing one’s vulnerabilities and desires. That was the case for heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, who’s famous for going 15 rounds against Muhammad Ali in 1975, was the key inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar-winning movie Rocky, and is the primary focus of this particular biopic The Bleeder. What director Philippe Falardeau and the four co-writers (Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl, Michael Cristopher and main star Liev Schreiber) do here is focus more on exploring Wepner’s ego, his occasional inability of handling fame and fortune, and the effects it has on his own personal life, rather than spend the bulk of its running time in the boxing ring.
This is a film that tackles the topic about the pitfalls of instant fame and celebrity status, which makes it familiar for audiences to identify with, despite it being a true story. We see the pain of Wepner’s life was caused by his own blue collar narcissism, which make his connection to Anthony Quinn’s character in Requiem for a Heavyweight all the more symbolic and builds Wepner as something of a folk hero. Liev Schreiber completely embodies all of that and it is his performance as Wepner that carries the movie, whilst he is surrounded by solid support thanks to the likes of Elizabeth Moss, Naomi Watts and Ron Perlman.
While the film is solidly produced with great performances, it does, unfortunately, pale in comparison with Darren Aaronofsy’s The Wrestler, which did a much better job of tackling similar subject matters better and has more emotional weight than this movie, which feels lightweight in comparison. Despite this, the movie does a fine job of exploring one’s journey of self-discovery with a stellar performance by Liev Schreiber, who certainly knows how to take a punch.
Dir: Philippe Falardeau
Scr: Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl, Michael Cristopher, Liev Schreiber
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elizabeth Moss, Ron Perlman, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Rapaport, Pooch Hall, Morgan Spector, Jason Jones,
Prd: Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman, Carl Hampe, Michael Tollin Liev Schreiber
DOP: Nicolas Bolduc
Music: Corey Allen Jackson
Run time: 98 mins
The Bleeder is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.