This week’s new release Bleed For This is the second boxing movie based on a true story to come out in the last few months, following the under-performing Hands of Stone, which came out just this past August. This one, though, amps up the drama with its story of a fighter who overcomes the odds in his quest to not only win it all but also just survive and keep himself in the ring.
Miles Teller stars as Vinny Pazienza, a World Champion Boxer who’s at the top of the game. One day he’s involved in a horrific car crash that leaves him gravely injured, with the doctors not sure if he’ll ever walk, much less fight, again. Determined to come back, though, he fights to regain his strength and dexterity, even as the training involved threatens to aggravate the neck and spinal injuries he’s suffered. After a long period of recuperation and conditioning, Vinny is back and fighting for the prize once again.
The first and only poster for the movie shows off the movie’s – and the main character’s – swagger and uses that as the primary selling point. So Pazienza is strutting toward the camera with tons of attitude, looking defiantly at whoever he’s going after. He’s flanked by his wife and trainer on either side, giving some hints as to the supporting cast. At the top we’re promised “This is what the greatest comeback in sports history looks like,” which doesn’t exactly roll smoothly off the tongue, but they needed to convey that this is a true story. The “sports” element is covered by the fact that he’s clearly wearing boxing robes, likely on his way to a weigh-in or other moment.
We start off in the only trailer with Vinny trying desperately to get down to weight before the weigh-in for his next big fight, a weigh-in he makes a dramatic entrance to and immediately begins talking smack. He wins the subsequent fight and we see he and his friends and trainers are having great luck all around, right up to the moment he’s involved in a serious car crash. He’s in such critical condition after that he may not walk again and refuses a surgery that would allow him to walk but not fight. After dealing with everyone trying to inspire him he decides, as dangerous as it is, to begin training again to try and heal his body and get back into fighting shape.
It’s very inspirational, showing the traditional arc of such stories, including how no one thinks the hero can bounce back from whatever adversity has been put in his or her way. Teller looks like he’s in full Whiplash mode here, giving a tight, focused performance that is heavy on “I can do this” moments. The supporting cast here is given pretty short shrift as the focus is squarely on Teller from beginning to end.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website opens with a still that’s pulled from the key art but the page then cycles through a few stills as well. There’s a big prompt to “Watch the Trailer” below the title treatment and a couple positive critics quotes to either side. Down in the far left corner there are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
That leads into the first section of content that’s listed at the top of the page, which is “Reviews.” There you’ll find a handful of similar quotes that actually link to the full reviews so you can read those quotes in context. There’s a Synopsis and information on the Director in the “About” section. That synopsis is better than anything you’ll find elsewhere online, which is rare.
“Cast” has brief writeups about the characters each of the main actors plays along with a still of them from the movie. “Videos” just has the one trailer. There are eight production stills in the “Photos” section and finally the “Partners” section just has one company listed and linked to.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one condensed Vinny’s story to just under 30 seconds, showing him as a successful fighter before he gets into the car accident and then working to come back from his injury. It’s very much selling the inspirational story angle here.
Online ads, including on social networks, used the trailer or TV-length videos to drive interest and ticket sales. I’m sure there were other online and outdoor ads as well.
Venum, a maker of professional sporting gear like boxing gloves and other material but I couldn’t find anything about the specific promotion they engaged in. There was also some help on the promotional front from UFC, with the movie sponsoring a recent bout in that league.
Media and Publicity
The movie’s premiere at the Telluride Film Festival brought mixed reviews, though most everything praised Teller’s performance as the standout reason to see it.Director Ben Younger spoke extensively here about how the material lured him back to filmmaking after an extended absence that wasn’t totally of his own choosing and how he worked to get the details of the story true to what actually happened. The movie was also among those selected for the Telluride Film Festival.
Teller and Eckhart both made the rounds of the talk shows, talking about the movie’s story and other topics.
I wish I just felt a little more life coming from this campaign. It’s so focused on creating and sharing inspirational moments that there doesn’t seem to be anything else going on. There’s surely quite a story to be told here and some of that does come through but the marketing doesn’t go much beyond presenting the characters as archetypal cutouts that could be plugged in anywhere and achieve much the same result, regardless of story.
That’s not to say it’s bad, but it doesn’t resonate in the way it should. The poster is forgettable and the trailer is alright but is such a mashup of scenes and emotions that there’s no real chance for the audience to connect. The website is better than many such efforts but still suffers from the same defect of many biopics, which is that it’s all about the movie without any further information on the real-life subject matter it’s based on. All that adds up to a lackluster campaign that isn’t nearly as inspirational as the story it’s trying to sell.
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