CHUCK Movie Review

By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

Schreiber succeeds playing a very different character. He wins us over.

Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) is a liquor salesman in New Jersey who also boxes. He’s good but he has one glaring handicap – he bleeds when he is hit. Thus, the nickname he despises, “The Bayonne Bleeder”.  It’s 1975 and seemingly good luck touches Chuck and he goes up against reigning champion Muhammad Ali for the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World.

From out of nowhere and having nothing to do with Chuck’s casual work for the mob, promoter Don King offers Chuck the title shot against champion George Foreman. But when Ali defeats Foreman, Chuck gets the match with Ali.

He knocked Ali to the canvas in the ninth round before losing by technical knockout 19 seconds before the final bell. But what a fight! Today, this kind of fight would never be permitted to last 15 rounds.

Heavyweight champions dance around eating up precious seconds on the clock. No one ever gets really hurt. Mayweather would never bleed and if there was a hint of blood, the fight would be stopped. Its boxing ballet and this is why boxing has lost its appeal.

Chuck, clearly an out-ranked underdog standing up to Ali in his prime, inspired Sylvester Stallone to base the movie character Rocky Balboa on him. Knowing he was the inspiration, Chuck rode this piece of fame as far as he could. ROCKY’S victory at the Academy Awards was a win for Chuck.

Chuck tries to meet Sly (Morgan Spector) and when he does, Sly welcomes him with open arms and kisses. He even tries to get him a part in his next film.

But there is only so much “I’m the real Rocky Balboa” can translate into financial gain.

Chuck’s other notable losses included a trashing by Sonny Liston, a pummeling by George Foreman and a tossing out of the ring in a wrestling match with Andre the Giant. And finally, Chuck fought a bear.

So the limelight soon faded and, not shown in the film, Chuck sued Stallone for $15 million in 2003. The lawsuit claimed Stallone improperly used his name “to promote the Rocky movies and related products for commercial purposes without consent and without compensation.” The lawsuit was settled in 2006 for an undisclosed sum.

CHUCK is a boxing movie, but the director, Philippe Falardeau, is more interested in the toil this unlikely event affected the lives of Chuck and his wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss). The screenwriters, Jeff Feuerzeig and Jerry Stahl, give Phyllis a strong identity. She is well aware of her husband’s overwhelming ego and the many women who are after him. Finally, Phyllis has enough and leaves him. So Chuck goes on a booze, coke and sex vacation.

It is the skill of Falardeau that even though this is a sad rags-to-celebrity-to-rags-again story, we never feel sorry for Chuck. Because he doesn’t feel sorry for himself.

The chastised-by-circumstances Chuck seeks out no-nonsense bartender Linda (Naomi Watts) and the healing begins.

Live Schreiber leaves behind the bespoke suits of Ray Donovan for the down-to-earth clothes, manners and vocal affectations of a guy from New Jersey. Schreiber’s performance is genuine and shows a great deal of range. He even looks like his face took enough beatings to change it’s plane.

Schreiber, who is also one of the producers, surrounded himself with strong, interesting actors. Chuck’s best friend John is played by comic Jim Gaffigan, his brother by Michael Rappaport and his trainer by Ron Perlman.

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