Hollywood has long held a fascination with boxers and boxing. In the post-war era, the likes of The Set-Up, Someone Up There Likes Me and Requiem for a Heavyweight all proved popular at the Box Office. However, it was the advent of Rocky and Raging Bull which really revitalised the sub-genre for subsequent generations. The story of a sportsman triumphing in adversity is one which continues to resonate. In The Bleeder, director Philippe Falardeau tells a story which may seem quite familiar.
Straight out of Bayonne, New Jersey, Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) is a boxer who thought he’d seen his better days after defeats to George Forman and Sonny Liston. However, after a surprise resurgence, he’s chosen to fight Muhammed Ali for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. ‘The Bayonne Bleeder’ is delighted by this unexpected cash windfall, but his wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) is less enamoured. Chuck finds it hard to keep his feet on the ground with his new-found fame.
The Bleeder is an impressive boxing film where the sport takes a backseat. Rocky was based on Wepner’s story, but there’s less glitz and glamour (and chickens) in this tale. Both Schreiber and Moss are entirely believable, the former in particular oozes both charm and likeability. They’re joined by a fine supporting cast, including Naomi Watts, Michael Rapaport and Ron Perlman. Falardeau brings the era to life and the script has the depth for events to play-out as a drama. The Bleeder is a highly entertaining film about a man who inspired a legend.
The Bleeder is released by Lionsgate UK on DVD, Blu-ray and digital on Monday 21 August.