Chad Reviews "Chuck"
Despite facing its bicentennial celebration, America was going through an extremely dark period in 1976. After a major recession and an energy crisis that was causing huge lines to even get gas, the country was in desperate need of something positive and uplifting. Then, like a bolt of lightning from a gym in Philly, Rocky Balboa became the everyman that America so desperately needed: a regular down-on-his-luck nobody rising from the slums to become a loveable underdog and a major catalyst that helped revive the dormant American dream. Little did we know that Rocky, while being a fictional character, was strongly based on heavyweight Chuck Wepner, a liquor salesman from New Jersey that fought and scraped his way to a title bout with Ali himself…but his real fight was really just beginning.
Liev Schreiber plays Wepner, a fighter the local refer to as the “The Bayonne Bleeder” due to his ability to endure a massive amount of punishment in the ring, but still remain standing. Thanks to his grizzled manager Al Braverman (Ron Perlman) and his durable reputation, Chuck remains a consistent contender in a spotlight he cannot completely handle, much to the chagrin of his devoted wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss). After his legendary bout with Ali, which found just a mere seconds shy of going the distance, Chuck experiences an unexpected level of celebrity when Stallone’s film becomes an overnight sensation, causing him to try to latch onto the “Rocky” gravy train. After numerous bone-headed decisions and nights of over indulgence, Chucks finds himself at odds with his family and at a crossroads in his life that will either define him, or destroy him.
This film was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It’s a truly stunning performance by Schreiber with a truly great supporting cast with the likes of Michael Rapaport as Chuck’s estranged brother, Jim Gaffigan as Chuck’s closest friend/worst enabler and Naomi Watts as Linda, the eventual apple of Chuck’s constantly wandering eye. Pooch Hall, Schreiber’s co-star on “Ray Donovan”, turns in an impressive yet all too brief performance as Muhammad Ali, as does Morgan Spector as Sylvester Stallone. As strong as the performances are, I feel as if the film could have dug a little deeper into some of the relationships in Chuck’s life that were a bit glossed, particularly his daughter and his brother. Overall, it was an entertaining yet sobering look at the price of fame, and the lengths that some people will go to get it.