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Chuck (The Bleeder) Review
by Adam Thorn
Chuck, also known as The Bleeder, is the story of Chuck Wepner, real life inspiration for the Rocky Balboa character. This features in Chuck, as Wepner goes around taking credit for the film’s success, while in reality his own life is spiralling. A boxing film within a boxing film, how meta is that? With a big name cast, and a subject matter appealing to boxing fans, it couldn’t fail to hit the mark, surely.
Liev Schreiber plays Wepner, Elizabeth Moss his wife Phyliss, Michael Rappaport his brother John and Ron Perlman appears as Chuck’s manager Al Braverman. While Schreiber is brilliant, as are most of the cast, in fact, the film is let down by one main issue: Wepner is not very likeable. Sure, occasionally he has moments of good humour or pathos, but largely he makes increasingly bad decisions, as if he’s been written by Thomas Hardy.
However, that is not to say that there’s nothing good in the film, it is an interesting life story, and when you throw in all the things Rocky left out such as drink, drugs and womanising, it’s got an edge to it that a lot of boxing films do not have.
Wepner fights a bear. Wepner takes repeated, gory blows to the head (after fighting Sonny Liston Wepner needed 72 facial stitches). Wepner fights Muhammad Ali, his crowning glory and the Rocky film's genesis. All in all a fascinating personal and boxing history, but it still suffers overall as a motion picture.
The actors, as mentioned, do their best to keep up the interest but they’re let down by some slightly hokey writing and slack direction. The film felt a little too stop/ start.
There’s also the other problem, it’s a boxing film where the boxing scenes don’t feel very real. The bear fight scene somewhat understandably. For a big(ish) budget film like this, that should be the minimum expected. Jawbone, a low budget British effort we reviewed here, managed that on a much more modest expenditure.
Chuck Wepner’s story is interesting, and for boxing fans that will probably be enough to keep them watching from start to end, but don’t expect too much of it, sadly. Overall the film felt too much like an episode of Schreiber’s TV series Ray Donovan, with fighting, drinking, drugs and womanising, but one where Ray is charmless and down on his luck. Ultimately a little depressing.
Posted: 30th Aug 2017
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