Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza (Miles Teller), a local Providence boxer, shoots to stardom after winning two world title fights. After a near-fatal car accident leaves him with a broken neck, he is told he may never walk again. Against all odds and doctor’s orders, renowned trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) agrees to help Vinny return to the ring just a year after the accident for what could be the last fight of his life. Based on a true story.
There have been many boxing films as of late and they’ve all been fairly similar (I haven’t seen Hands of Stone as it was pulled from theatrical release in Canada). Not only that, they always seem to follow sports film cliches involving people facing hardship which is usually a fall from grace and then overcoming that adversity in order to become successful for example. Most sports films based on true stories tend to follow this path and this film is no different. You might not know who Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza is but it almost doesn’t matter.
It’s basically a fill-in-the-blanks story wise with Pazienza (Teller) becoming a prominent boxer but when a car accident renders him nearly paralyzed with a broken neck, he somehow defies the odds and manages to return to the ring with the help of a grizzled trainer named Kevin Rooney (Eckhart). So basically you’ve probably seen this before in one form or another. This fact made it difficult to find any excitement out of what was happening because of its predictability.
Pazienza was an arrogant and thought he was the best around. He surrounded by people who enabled this because it was in their best interest to do so, including his father Angelo (Ciarán Hinds). Despite his injury, Pazienza was determined to get back in the ring and it was that determination that helped him beat it. Those scenes were probably the best part of the film as they gave us Pazienza and Rooney. Seeing their contrasting styles work together was fun to watch. Pazienza’s progression was interesting to watch as his personal setbacks helped him to realize the error of his ways and taught him a better approach to boxing and life. This all of course ended as one would expect.
There was nothing new here which made watching this more like a chore. Generic story aside, the boxing sequences weren’t particularly exciting as the film played around with sound and camera angles to try and emphasize the action but it didn’t work. The performances were okay but everyone just felt wasted. Pazienza’s progression was compelling but Teller’s smugness made him mostly unlikable. It was surprising to see Eckhart as a fat, balding, alcoholic, boxing coach but Rooney was still cliche. His performance slightly elevates it above cliche. What saves Teller and Eckhart, still slightly, was their chemistry. Hinds’ bad accent made him very annoying to watch.
Overall, this was a generic, boring, boxing film with okay performances by Teller and Eckhart.