Chuck – A Review by Cynthia Flores
This film, Chuck, was originally called The Bleeder because that was the rude nickname given to the fighter in real life, heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner. This movie was inspired by his story and what a story it is.
We meet Chuck (Liev Schreiber) towards the end of his career in boxing. He is slated to fight a bear in the ring. That’s right a bear. That is a long way from the fight against Muhammad Ali for the Heavyweight championship of the world in 1975. We are told the story by Chuck in voiceover as he takes us back to the beginning and what ultimately led him to the low point of boxing a bear.
He is loved by his then wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) and his young daughter and the neighborhood in Bayonne New Jersey where they all live. He’s ranked 8th in the boxing world and while he is waiting for his shot at the title has to keep a day job which he got from a friend selling liquor to local bars.
His manager and trainer Al (Ron Perlman with a comb-over) has guided him to the fight with Muhammad Ali (Pooch Hall). We get to see him train and tear his marriage apart with his wandering eye. This fight with Ali thrusts Chuck into a world wide type of fame. Very different from being the big fish in a little pond like he was before.
The relationship with his wife is bitter sweet Phyliss really loves Chuck but is hurt time and again by his selfishness. It’s with his wife at home that we see them watching his favorite black and white movie on TV. It’s the classic Requiem for a Heavyweight starring Anthony Quinn as Louis Mountain Rivera the ultimate cautionary tale of a man that almost made it to the world title and his life after the ring. If you haven’t seen this movie then it might help you to see it before you see Chuck because there are several pivotal scenes they quote and actually show in this movie from that classic film. Also, because you can not call yourself a super film nerd without having seen that film.
After the Ali fight there is another iconic film that really influenced Chuck's life and that was Rocky. Even though Sylvester Stallone never publicly admitted it even after befriending Chuck, it is obvious that the movie Rocky was based on the Chucks life and fight with Ali.
It’s thru this notoriety that Chuck and his best friend John (Jim Gaffigan) end up in the fast lane of the Disco scene with all the cocaine and free sex that came along with it. We watch as Chuck's life spirals out of control. His only life line is a flirtation with a red headed tough as nails bartender named Linda (Naomi Watts) that does not cut him the slack that his ex wife or his friends do. Watching Chuck hit rock bottom is not tough because it’s all gritty instead it’s because you really grow to like him and cheer for him despite his own stupidity. It’s great to see how Linda ends up being Chucks salvation and reason to straighten up and fly right.
This movie has a great feel and sound to it. The fight scenes are brutal and the gritty, muted colors of the 70s are dead on. Also the soundtrack to this movie is so much fun. I had a little trouble with the tacked on feel of the distant relationship Chuck had with his estranged brother John (Michael Rapaport) in the story. It felt like it should have been fleshed out more or left out altogether.
Ultimately the movie Chuck is the story of a “coulda been”. He coulda been a good husband. he coulda been a champ, he coulda been in Rocky 2. He’s not a winner until he learns to be more than the fighter that inspired the movie Rocky or almost went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali . In the end, he changes from a “coulda been” to being at peace with just being a man loved by one woman instead of the whole world. Chuck is a fun ride you’ll be glad you took. It’s a very satisfying film.
Directed By: Philippe Falardeau
Written By: Jeff Feuerzieg, Jerry Stahl, Michael Cristofer, Liev Schreiber
Rated: R (for language throughout, drug use, sexuality/nudity and some bloody images)
Selig Rating: A
Running Time: 98 min
Drama, Sport Biography
Limited Release: Magnolia
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Naomi Watts, Ron Pearlman, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Rapaport, Pooch Hall