Review: The Bleeder

Also known as Chuck, in the USA, it tells the true-life story of Chuck Wepner, “The real Rocky” who went 15 rounds again Muhammad Ali, during his rise and ultimate fall as he’s given the opportunity of a lifetime. Starring Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Naomi Watts, Ron Perlman, Michael Rapaport and Morgan Spector.

A film opening on a boxer in the midst of a fight with a bear, is not exactly the easiest way to gain sympathy for a main character but it immediately describes Chuck, he may be typical but of anti-heroes. Ultimately, it’s a large part of the reason, Schreiber was great choice for the role; he is not your boy next door, saving the world, nice guy finishing last, he is very respectably good at playing assholes, occasionally they’ll be softhearted but nevertheless they air on the side of selfish, violent and greedy, Chuck is no exception.

The female side of the film however is much less faultless, while Moss is great as ever in the limited role that she has, very much being the dependable wife of the inconsiderate, fame hungry husband, Watts’ is much more disappointing. Watts’ career has been on an interesting path as of late, stumbling through films such as the Divergent series sequels, Shut in and The Book of Henry, not since The Impossible in 2012 has this actress had a moment to shine, hopefully to be turned around by the upcoming release Glass Castle but certainly not by The Bleeder.  It’s very much a minimal role, using a terrible American accent and despite being based on a real person, is not particularly convincing.

The story itself is age old, a person gets a shot at fame and fortune and it goes to their head, they take for granted what matters and go for everything they can get while it’s within reach. However, Watts’ isn’t the only unconvincing aspect of the film, the actual fight scenes are somewhat disappointing, feeling overly sluggish and lacking a smooth, graceful edge, which may be reflective of Wepner’s style but it’s ultimately not as entertaining to watch.

The Bleeder is a combination of a lovable dickhead, a devoted wife, a flirtatious bartender and a ruthless trainer. Ironically it’s a lightweight story, it skips too much, too quickly and forgets to linger on the details long enough for you to commit to the characters. Director Philippe Falardeau has not corrected the mistakes that he made with The Good Lie, the film is still missing a real meaning, energy or focus. Ultimately it is worth a watch, especially for any fans of Rocky for the interesting backstory but it is unfortunately rather forgettable.

Verdict: 5.5/10

Lionsgate UK presents The Bleeder out now on DVD, Blu-ray & Digital

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