*** 1/2 out of 5
Rated R for language, sexuality/nudity and some accident images
Open Road Films
Article first published at TheReelPlace.com
There must be something therapeutic about sports films. They’re all nearly identical, yet audiences till flock to them. I suppose the same thing can be said about any genre really. But when it comes to sports biopics in particular, would they have made a movie if they weren’t going to come out on top at the end? (Rocky may be the only exception.) Thankfully, the journey is at least usually different. In the case of Vinny Pazienza’s uphill battle after breaking his neck in a car wreck, leaving doctors questioning whether he’ll even be able to walk again, the journey is more worth it than others. That is if writer/director Ben Younger’s pacing doesn’t put you to sleep along the way.
Beginning in 1988, Vinny (Miles Teller) is at the top of his game going toe to toe with Roger Mayweather (Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin). But after he loses the big fight, even Vinny’s manager Lou (Ted Levine) openly thinks Vinny should throw in the towel. Now, Vinny seeks out a new trainer, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), to help him get back on top. Soon, fate comes calling and Vinny winds up in a car wreck. Insisting on a halo surgery, he finds himself in the biggest fight of his life as he goes against the odds to train in spite of his disability. Anyone who can’t see what’s coming has never seen a sports drama.
A lot of people simply cannot stand Miles Teller. Considering he plays the same character in every movie, it’s easy to see why. I’ve never been on the Teller hate bandwagon, and here he’s far more likeable than usual. It’s easy to make jokes before seeing the movie that you can’t wait to see Teller get hit in the face, but he does manage to give humanity to Vinny’s plight. They take a moment to point out that Vinny doesn’t drink or do drugs, so that also makes it easier to feel bad for Vinny. Younger surrounds Teller with a great supporting cast — Eckhart is nearly unrecognizable — which helps carry the film to the finish line. If it weren’t for them, Vinny’s story would be a been there, heard that affair. The saddest part is that being released in November you would hope it would be an Oscar contender, but alas, the only honorable mention is Eckhart.