Chuck Blu-ray Review

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Boxing, the Sweet Science if you will, was a frequent distraction in my formative years in the ‘80s. There were so many brilliant fighters and they were constantly battling each other for supremacy. They were legends like Hagler, Duran, Hearns, Holmes, Tyson, Holyfield, Foreman, and Leonard. Giants of their profession no matter the weight class. Perhaps even greater was the generation from the ‘60s and ‘70s known by many as Kings. Men like Frazier, Arguello, Monzon, Ali, not to mention Duran & Foreman who spanned both groups. Having been born in 1973, I just missed being a first hand witness of that glorious age for boxing. My window into that time was replays, interviews, and highlights. Honestly, it made the men and their actions slightly more mythical in my mind.

Another man that did not quite have attained that legendary status at that time is Chuck Wepner. He was more of a club boxer, but gained notoriety when Muhammad Ali gave him a title match. That’s right, the established champion gave the gritty club fighter the chance of a lifetime. Sound familiar? It’s the story that inspired Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky. The story is legendary especially since nobody gave Wepner a chance. In the end, he knocked Ali down and lasted to the waning moments of the 15th round. It’s funny that through Rocky, Wepner became almost as inspirational and legendary as some of the greatest boxers that ever lived.

First, let me say, Liev Schreiber is a brilliant actor. He is at his best playing  rough-and-tumble characters. He inhabits the role of Chuck Wepner brilliantly. The mannerisms, the speech, the walk, and even the fighting style. Schreiber is so much more than a movie star. He's an actor of the highest order. What a performance! 

 

 

Behind the camera, Philippe Falardeau’s direction highlights the sheer brutality of boxing during the ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s no point in creating a film about the career of a man nicknamed the “Bayonne Bleeder” if you’re going to sugarcoat the violence. The work of cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc captures the seedy life of Chuck in clubs and the boxing ring. The lighting and aura of the fights are all grit and very little glamour. It even seems to mimic Rocky in atmosphere tone, and lighting.  Falardeau and Bolduc were particularly adept at blending archival footage seamlessly with the material shot for the film.

As a kid, Wepner was more famous to me for battling Andre the Giant at Shea Stadium. What can I say, I love pro wrestling. The focus of the film is mostly the Ali fight, so there is very little time for the gimmicky Andre the Giant showdown. This is a spot where they used footage of the real fight. I guess it would have been too hard to cast someone as Andre the Giant. Seriously, who’s going to fill that role? 

On the note of casting icons. Morgan Spector and Pooch Hall, as Sylvester Stallone and Muhammad Ali respectively, were excellent selections by Falardeau. Both men are by no means lookalikes, yet they are believable in the roles. Looking like a person is so different than acting like them. Spector effectively portrays Stallone’s manner and voice. While Hall floats like a butterfly magnificently. I mean seriously, if you watched the boxing footage from afar, you’d think it was actually Ali.

Who doesn’t love a well crafted sports movie? Seriously, I’d find that person very suspect. I’m talking movies like Rocky, Rudy, Eight Men Out, The Natural, or Miracle. Chuck may not be quite up there with the finest sports films ever made, but it’s a quality production with lots of action, drama, and fine acting. Pick this one up!

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0