This meandering drama about Chuck Wepner, the journeyman boxer who went 15 rounds against Muhammad Ali, proves theres still lots of life left in the genre
Hollywood keeps forcefeeding the public boxing movies at an alarming rate. Last year brought Southpaw, as well as Creed, which resurrected the Rocky franchise in rousing fashion; already this year, weve been treated to Hands of Stone, soon to be followed by Bleed For This. Enter The Bleeder, a third major film in recent months to feature the sport.
Philippe Falardeaus drama, however, is not a conventional boxing film. Theres no victorious final round, no hard-won retribution, no training montages in fact, theres hardly any boxing at all, except for a segment where our hero, New Jersey knucklehead Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber), gets beaten to a bloody pulp by Muhammad Ali, with whom he endured 15 brutal rounds in 1975.
Wepner served as the inspiration for the iconic character of Rocky Balboa, but as The Bleeder makes painfully clear, the blue-collar worker was no star athlete. Often referred to as the Bayonne Bleeder, Wepner earned his dubious celebrity on account of his ability to take punishment without going down. On top of getting pummelled by Ali, he also took blows from George Foreman and Sonny Liston.
I just got to show I belong I dont care about getting hurt, he says to his second wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss), on his way into the ring with Ali. In The Bleeder, Wepner isnt as a boxer; hes a shameless showman, willing to get bruised to a bloody pulp, just so long as his sacrifice delivers a killer show.
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