"Chuck" (2016 release; 101 min.) brings the story of New Jersey
heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner. As the movie opens, we are reminded
this is "based on a true story". Wepner is making a name for himself as
a heavyweight boxer in the mid-70s. After a quick detour to his youth,
we see Wepner and his wife Phyllis watch Ali beat Foreman in the
"Rumble in the Jungle". Then the news comes that Ali next wants to
fight Wepner, much to his surprise. Why? Because Ali wants to take on a
"white guy" and Wepner is the only white guy in the heavyweight top 10
ranking. After Ali fights Wepner in March, 1975, Wepner is a star. Then
Wepner gets a phone call that some guy in Hollywood is making a movie
inspired by Wepner's story... What happens next? To tell you more of
the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see
for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this isn't the first movie about Wepner's life story, in fact ESPN made a documentary about it for its 30 For 30 series. But this is not a documentary. While the movie is directed by Canadian director Philippe Falardeau, best known for his movie "Monsieur Lahzar" some 4-5 years ago, "Chuck" is a true labor of love for Liev Schreiber, who has been pushing this for years. Schreiber brings one of his very best performances of his career (and that is saying something). On top of that he co-produced and co-wrote the movie. If you are expecting a sports movie, you will be sorely disappointed, as this far more a character study (and a flawed character at that). The 1970s are brought to life with a perfectly matching soundtrack and production set (were the city centers really as run down as they are shown here?). The movie sports an all-star cast: besides Schreiber, we see Naomi Watts (unrecognizable as Wepner's love interest Linda--it wasn't until the end credits rolled I realized it was her), Ron Perlman (as Wepner's boxing manager) and Elisabeth Moss as Wepner's wife Phyllis), just to name those. It may be difficult to separate the unlikely Wepner life story from the movie's artistic value, but all I can say is that the movie flew by in no time for me, and that's always a good sign. "Sometimes life is like a movie, and sometimes it's even better", comments Wepner towards the end. Why? just watch...
"Chuck" premiered to good acclaim at last year's Venice Film Festival, It recently finally opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The Saturday matinée screening where I saw this at was attended poorly (only 2 people beside myself). Probably the picture-perfect weather had something to so with it. Regardless, hopefully this movie will find a bigger audience on Amazon Instant Video and eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Chuck" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Biography / Drama / Sport
Biography / Drama / Sport
Chuck Wepner, the "Bayonne Bleeder," he was the pride of Bayonne, New Jersey, a man who went fifteen rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali, and the real life inspiration for Rocky Balboa. But before all that, Chuck Wepner was a liquor salesman and father with a modest prizefighting career whose life changed overnight when, in 1975, he was chosen to take on The Greatest in a highly publicized title match. It's the beginning of a wild ride through the exhilarating highs and humbling lows of sudden fame-but what happens when your fifteen minutes in the spotlight are up?
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August 02, 2017 at 08:10 AM