First Hit: Although very well acted, it didn’t stay with me nor was I inspired.
The oddity for me about this film was seeing this amazing struggle that Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) went through to fight again, yet also being turned off by a number of the movie's characters. The pushiness and arrogance of his father Angelo (Ciaran Hinds), promoter and son Lou Duva (Ted Levine) and Dan Duva (Jordan Gelber), and the treatment of family members, just left me cold.
It is not that I have to like the characters in a movie, however for some reason, Angelo, Lou and Dan turned me off to other parts of the film. On the converse side Vinny’s relationship with his trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) was priceless. This was the best part of the film. The push/pull and of their personalities was exquisite.
The film shined when it was about how Vinny found his inner strength to really live again. Up until that one point, Miles did a great job of moving Vinny to level of complacency while healing. But then it switches and he becomes the focused Vinny the film begins with, thus moving the film into another gear. When Kevin joins him in his quest, the movie started to sing again and the bonding between these two men in the basement was outstanding.
The fight scenes were OK. Some of the the ring choreography was puzzling but overall it was exciting and gave an air of the battles Vinny went through. The training scenes and the appropriately dark and grungy gyms used to train in, were perfect given the era and type of boxer Vinney portrayed.
Vinny’s mom Louise (Katey Sagal) not being able to watch any of his fights, spent that time in front of her alter of Jesus emblemed candles and other Jesus iconic stuff. It was difficult for me to relate to that kind of praying, yet it made sense for the film and Italian family. Additionally, the scenes of Vinny and entourage in strip joints also fit the film’s genera, and were insightful to the characters in their own way.
Teller was very strong as Vinny and made his battle believable. Each time he had to get into a car or duck under something I cringed and ducked in my seat as well. Eckhart was outstanding as Vinny’s trainer. I loved his drunk scenes as well as his sober focused scenes equally. Hinds was perfectly obnoxious, egotistic and arrogant as boss of his family and what he wanted. The scene of him chomping and smoking a cigar on the porch while telling off Kevin was perfect in all ways. Levine and Gelber was wonderful as the father and son promoters always looking out for their interests while feigning the interest of the fighters they promote. Sagal was good as the suppressed mom always worried about her son’s fighting. Ben Younger both wrote and directed this film. The writing in many of the scenes was outstanding and getting the actors to deliver on those lines was skillful.
Overall: Engaging film to watch but forgetful by the next day.