Director: Philippe Falardeau
Run Time: 1h 38m
Chuck ‘The Bleeder’ Wepner was a real fighter. You know him as Rocky Balboa. (maybe)
Chuck (Liev Schreiber) was not the greatest boxer there was, but his fame came from the fact that he could take a punch…and bleed profusely. He was Jersey’s pride and joy and like every fighter worth knowing, he had a rough start. A cocky prick who sold booze on the side, Chuck was a fighter at heart and lived for the ring. His wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) loved him and knew that he loved her too, but she couldn’t quite break him of his luxurious lifestyle of booze, women, and drugs. The more gigs his manager (Ron Perlman) got for him, the more outrageous his behavior became. Until he got the ultimate opportunity: a fight against the one and only Muhammed Ali (Pooch Hall). Those 15 minutes sky-rocketed him to fame — with the help of a little film called Rocky. Chuck had all the potential of a great fighter, but the man behind the headlines was a mess. The story we all know of the great Rocky Balboa was a lot more heartbreaking in real life.
I saw Chuck because I didn’t want to watch another sad dog movie. It turned out to be another one of those “I guess I’ll watch this” that ended up being a “I’m so glad I watched this!” I’ll admit it is slow and steady with its pacing, but that was Chuck’s fighting style. Being fast doesn’t always get you where you need to be. Sometimes you gotta stand still and take a punch or twelve.
Liev Schreiber was outstanding! Chuck is the kinda guy who, under normal circumstances, would just be a straight up a**hole. He’s a fighter, a womanizer, and drug abuser. But Chuck had depth and heart. There was a passion and emotion there that needed the right person to capture and portray. Schreiber was the right choice. For a character that could easily be hated, Schreiber brought life and a lovable atmosphere to where you were rooting for this scoundrel every step of the way. He was real. And you felt it.
Elisabeth Moss was right up there on par with Schrieber. A Jersey wife stands by her man, but at the same time she’s not one to take sh*t either. Moss rose to the occasion to stand toe to toe with Schreiber to bring life to the woman behind the heavyweight. That is until, Naomi Watts stepped in. Watts plays a bartender, Linda, who Chuck meets on the road. Her character has her own set of complexities but they’re the kind of complications Chuck needs. Even though she’s sort of “the other woman”, she isn’t at the same time. Again…heart and lovability where it might not have been under different circumstances.
While Chuck and Phyliss and Linda may not be household names, Muhammed Ali and Sylvester Stallone sure are. They are portrayed in this film because both had monumental impacts on Chuck’s life. And both actors hit their marks. Morgan Spector plays Stallone and Pooch Hall plays Ali. Both men are convincing if not in looks, definitely in presence.
I really loved how Chuck was filmed. The movie is set in the 1970s and the grainy picture and style of the sets made it feel as such. The grittiness paralleled not only Chuck but the era and it worked wonderfully. It wasn’t a pretty story or a pretty time so why use a pretty film to tell the tale? Brilliant.
As I was watching Chuck one word kept rolling through my mind: genuine. This movie felt right. It simply said “here’s this story, it is what it is.” And I loved it. I hope you do too when you see it.
There are disputes as to whether or not Stallone actually based Rocky on Chuck’s fight against Ali. Believe what you will. But I’d be doing Chuck an injustice if I didn’t recommend you watch his [probable] fictional counterpart Rocky. To say anything else would be a crime.