PROVIDENCE -- This had been a long time coming for director Ben Younger. Long after shooting the yet-to-be-released boxing film, “Bleed For This,” he was finally set to reveal the work of years past where it was filmed.
“Two years to the day,” Younger said Thursday night, “we began filming.”
Thursday’s premiere at Providence Place was all about location. The film, which tells the story of Cranston native Vinny Pazienza’s ill-advised and triumphant return from a broken neck and subsequent World Junior Middleweight championship, was shot in various spots around Rhode Island back in 2014.
So why the holdup on the release? Perhaps to avoid overlap with 2015 blockbuster "Creed," but a blessing of the delay is that the movie, which will be released across the country on Nov. 18, will now drop with star Miles Teller having since established himself as one of the more popular actors in Hollywood.
Joining Younger for the screening Thursday was a large contingent from the film, including Teller and co-star Aaron Eckhart, producer Chad Verdi and Vinny Paz himself. Teller gushed about the opportunity to play someone like Paz, a person whose actions he found mind-blowing. After all, Pazienza was bench-pressing within a week of having a halo brace installed around his head.
While Pazienza did that with a broken neck, Teller said the most difficult part of the movie was pulling off that feat in full health.
“I had no idea how anyone could do that,” Teller said. “I couldn’t figure it out, so I had Vinny come on set and show me.”
Since Pazienza’s return was so unheard of, the minds behind the movie actually had to alter the timeline because they felt the truth would be unbelievable to those who didn’t know the story.
“Vinny’s story is so sensational, we didn’t have to embellish at all. In fact, we had to pull back,” Younger said. “Vinny started lifting weights five days after the halo went on. We couldn’t show that in the movie, because no one would believe it. So we [changed it] to like a month after the halo went on.”
Ultimately, that went to be the biggest challenge faced by the movie. It isn’t really a biopic about his life or career as much as it is a film about his comeback. In adding the extra month, the movie experiences a mundane stretch in which the recovering boxer doesn’t interact with enough people to further develop characters. That delays the actual comeback quite a bit.
Once he hits the bench, however, the movie takes off and races to the closing credits. Eckhart’s performance as boxing trainer Kevin Rooney -- one that saw the easy-on-the-eyes "The Dark Knight" star gain 40 pounds and shave his head -- is intense when it needs to be and hilarious when it needs to be. The dynamic of Teller and Eckhart has the same effect, from dinner table giggling to a scene during the film’s final fight that should undoubtedly be a trailer.
Of course, Teller and Eckhart aren’t the only people in the movie. I’d be remiss if I were to leave out the performance of one Gary Tanguay, who can be seen and heard playing an HBO reporter as Pazienza’s manager, Lou Duva, declares in an interview that Pazienza should retire.
Throughout the screening, the locals in attendance were easy to spot, or hear. At every mention of Rhode Island, or even sight of anything that they may have seen at any point in Rhode Island, the crowd let out a big cheer. There were plenty of occurrences in a movie that took every opportunity to mention where it was set.
“We’re almost more excited about this premiere than we are about the New York or LA premiere, because this is where it started, this is where it ends, this is where Vinny still lives,” Younger said. “How many sports figures of his prominence still live in the town they grew up in?”