- Bleed for this
Bleed for This is the incredible real life rollercoaster ride, story of Vinny Panzienza. Miles Teller stars as the fiery Fighter who battled to win three world titles. However, the story focuses mainly on the inspirational comeback story of Vinny Paz. After a car crash left him with a broken neck, doctors said he may never walk again. However with the help of Kevin Rooney played by Aaron Eckhart they would defy the odds, using rehabilitation exercises to make a glorious comeback. The Film concludes with the magnificent comeback win against legendary fighter Roberto Duran. The moving scene is slightly marred by the ridiculous casting choice for Roberto Duran. Edwin Rodriguez is an entirely different race from Duran and looks nothing like him in physique or face.
Accompanying the film is a beautiful soundtrack which wrenches on the emotional heart strings. Fight scenes are impressively realistic which aids in the films believability. Miles Teller puts in a tremendous, stirring performance giving a true feel of the devilish character. Aaron Eckhart and Teller put in stellar performances. Their on camera chemistry is befitting of the bond between trainer and fighter. The film is inspirational, emotional and thrilling in equal measure, well worth a watch.
- The Fighter
In this film local fighter Mickey Ward (Mark Whalberg) battles in the shadow of his local hero brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) who “knocked down” Sugar Ray Leonard. Miss managed, the promising prospect loses a string of fights and decides to hang up his gloves. However under new financially backed management he is matched properly and mounts a comeback.
Throughout the film the topsy-turvy relationship between Ward and his brother/trainer Dicky is very much at the forefront. The heroin addicted trainer brings shame to his family and disharmony to the training camp. This ultimately contributes to Ward losing a number of fights. Thankfully Eklund is sent to prison for a scuffle with police, giving his brother the freedom to reach from under the shadow, and re-establish his status as a Boxing prospect. However Ward realises he needs his brother’s tactician mind to help him reach the top. Upon his release a clean Dicky re-joins the stable and the duo battle to win the lightly regarded WBU world title.
The film is a real life, feel good story about battling towards triumph. However there is a serious gripe with this story which will forever mar its memory and standing among boxing fans. Why they never featured any of the trilogy of Arturo Gatti Vs Micky Ward, I or any serious boxing fan will never understand or forgive. Although the Shea Neary fight shows a glimmer of the warrior spirit of Ward, this a pale comparison of what could have been. The Gatti Vs Ward trilogy is known in the boxing circle as some of the finest examples of heart in battle. The fights won back to back accolades as the fight of the year and it is a travesty not to include them. Also the supporting role of Bale overpowers the main role. The film also makes no effort to alter Whalberg’s appearance to that of a slender redheaded Micky Ward, which can be a cause for annoyance.
- Cinderella Man
Cinderella man is the true tale of professional boxer James Braddock who rose from the ashes like a phoenix to triumph. The early part of the film focuses on the marvellous early career of Braddock who had a string of early knockouts in the Light-Heavyweight division in the 1920’s. However Braddock was comprehensibly outpointed in challenging for a world title and his promising career and life starts to crumble. Soon after the fight the American stock market crashed ushering in the Great Depression. The film shows in crippling brutality how after losing the savings he fought so hard to get, the fighter is forced to trade luxury for squalor.
Russell Crowe plays the ever optimistic and proud boxer who is yanked and pulled by the despair of the time, but refuses to quit. He has no option but to fight on to try and provide for his family, despite taking a huge pay cut. Out of work and injured Braddock is forced to continue boxing despite having a broken hand, and the losses pile up. His career looks to be finished when heartless promoter Jimmy Johnston (Bruce McGill) docks his wages and suspends him from boxing for fighting to a no contest, in which he again broke his hand. The ever supporting effort of his wife Mae (Renée Zellweger) is a beauty to behold. However the strong family unit begins to disband as poverty threatens to overwhelm them. In the most eye watering seen of the film the proud fighter is forced to swallow his pride and betray his morals for the sake of his family. Shameful of himself he signs on welfare and goes hat in hand, begging to the very same boxing community that so badly betrayed him.
However the film is not all doom and gloom. Upon witnessing the fighter’s struggles, fighter/manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) find Braddock a well-paid fight. The former prospect Braddock is brought in to lose as a past his best journeyman. However the overmatched outweighed challenger stops his heavyweight opponent in three rounds. Despite being told he would never box again this generates some hype and he quickly finds another opponent. Expected to lose, he again overcomes the odds beating another two highly ranked heavyweight prospects. He then gets a shot at the title against formidable yet eccentric knockout puncher Max Baer.
The challenger becomes a working class hero after returning the money he received from welfare and his quip about fighting for milk. He quickly becomes a symbol for hope against the odds in the era of the great depression earning him the moniker “The Cinderella Man”. The film reflects the real life safety concerns of the public in Jim facing Baer, a fighter who previously claimed the lives of two of his previous opponents. However spurred on by a cheering crowd Bradock reaches the ultimate echelon of the world of boxing. He battles through a vicious war to a 15 round decision victory to claim the Heavyweight title.
- Rocky Franchise
With so many films in the franchise I am choosing to group them all together to avoid clogging up the list. Everyone has their favourite Rocky, my personal favourite is Rocky 3. However no one in their right mind would chose Rocky Balboa as their favourite, I chose to ignore its existence.
Rocky is possibly the least realistic example of boxing, a movie has to offer. However, it is in its lack of realism that the brilliance shines through. The films are pure theatre. Outside of Raging bull Rocky has the greatest soundtrack of any boxing movie. In fact the trumpeted sounds accompanying the training sequences are possibly the most recognisable theme songs in cinematic history. The film and music have become synonymous with training montages and are often mimicked poorly for moments of cheap humour. The over the top, outlandish characters and story lines would make Vince McMahon jealous. Pantomime villain characters such as Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, the eccentric Apollo Creed and the angry old Mickey and Paulie are sure to live fondly in the memory of anyone that watches. Not to mention the main character himself – Rocky, who you can’t help but root for.
The franchise follows the fictional life of heavyweight boxer, Rocky Balboa. A deadbeat, drinking, smoking, journeyman fighter and hired muscle for the mob. He gets the shot of a lifetime, when heavyweight champion Apollo Creed choses to fight him after his opponent pulls out. Sylvester Stallone stars as the lovable underdog in the Oscar winning original, Rocky. Ultimately Rocky would lose the fight but would win the hearts and minds of the nation and prove his self-worth to himself by going the distance. The rest of the franchise follows his rise to the top, fall and rise again.
- Raging Bull
Not only the greatest boxing film ever made but simply one of the greatest films in existence. The beautiful black and white imagery flows perfectly with the sublime classical music backdrop. The beauty perfectly contrasts with the horror and viciousness of battle. Robert De niro expertly portrays this viciousness, acting as one of the most savage brawlers of all time, Jake Lamotta. The true story tells the tale of the rage filled fighter from the Bronx and his struggle to the top. Along the way there are moments of glory, triumph and heartbreak. Lamotta battles against opponents, his inner demons and the mafia throughout his blistering boxing career. Failed marriages and family fall outs are a reoccurring theme for the psychopathic fighter.
Unsurprisingly for a Scorsese film about an Italian American boxer of the 40s and 50s the picture has a strong presence of organised crime. This shows the murky grip the mafia used to have on the sport as Jake is forced to take a dive in order to get a title shot. This decision heartbreakingly destroys his pride and reputation, but he gets his shot and takes the belt by knockout. His rivalry with the greatest fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson is featured heavily in the film. Lamotta was the first person to defeat Robinson and their fights are re-enacted in beautifully brutal fashion. However after a glittering career there is an almighty fall from grace. A grossly overweight Lamotta would lose his reputation, wife, and family as he struggles with post fighter blues and paranoia. The destructive nature of Lamotta’s fighting style is reflected in his life as he slowly destroys everything he loves including himself. De Niro put on sixty pounds for the role and his commitment won him an Oscar (Shortlist). The film is widely described by critics as a masterpiece although the film was snubbed for an Oscar. This is heralded as one of the biggest injustices in the history of the award ceremony.