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?Written by
Chuck Wepner served his prison time in East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, NJ, not Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ, as depicted in the movie. This is where he met Sylvester Stallone while filming "Lock Up" in 1989. See more »
"Chuck" is a sad, albeit entertaining, story about a loser with a heart of gold.
Wepner was called "the bleeder" due to his always seeming to get cut in his fights. The real-life Chuck needed 72 stitches after his loss against the brutal punching Sonny Liston. He also lost to George Foreman, Liston's successor as the most feared man in boxing.
Wepner was, in short, a fan favourite not due to boxing skill, but due to his toughness and heart.
Somehow, the stars aligned and Wepner found himself ranked in the top ten. Don King wanted a white guy to fight his champion, Muhammad Ali, who had just done the impossible and defeated Foreman. No one gave Wepner a hope in hell of defeating Ali, and the truth was, he didn't have one, either. But he almost went the distance, and he knocked Ali down.
This was the fight that inspired "Rocky". Wepner is the Italian Stallian, Ali is Apollo Creed.
Then, the fame goes to Wepner's head, and we get a fairly predictable series of failures involving drugs, broken relationships and prison time. Stallone actually wants Wepner to star in "Rocky II", but he's on so many drugs by that stage, he blows the audition. "Chuck" rises above the cliche, however, by keeping its protagonist relatable.
It also brings out the real jewel in its crown - not Schreiber, though he is good, but a show-stoppingly brilliant Naomi Watts, who deserved an Oscar for the complete transformation she did into the role of Wepner's second wife. She is unrecognizable, and not just in terms of looks. The performance is stunning.
It's easily the best thing about the movie, and everything else kind of pales in comparison to Watts' performance. It's good, but it's not THAT good, unfortunately, and this is a movie of relatively limited interest to anyone who isn't a boxing fan, or a "Rocky" fan.
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