Review by Justin Waldman for Mr. Will Wong
When making a Biopic there are always a few challenges, most of which is to focus on the important parts of the subject’s life and doing it concisely. With Philippe Falardeau’s Chuck, the Film manages to tread cautiously while also telling a very interesting story. The story focuses on Chuck Wepner, the Boxer from Bayonne, New Jersey who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali, the inspiration for Rocky, and then unfortunately fell off the deep end. The way the story is crafted is engaging while also insightful for fans and those who know little about him.
The Movie starts off with the audience being introduced to Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) as he is with his long-time friend John (Jim Gaffigan) as they set-up, what Chuck swears to be factual, a fight between Chuck and a grizzly bear for a charity fight. The Film then backs steps and goes to earlier in Chuck’s life when he was married to wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) and his boxing career from there gets interesting. His manager calls him in and tells him that Don King wants Chuck to fight Foreman after the latter defeats Ali, which didn’t actually happen. What happens next, as Chuck would put it is ‘dumb luck’, as according to the Movie King wanted Ali to fight a ‘white guy’, and Chuck resultantly was the first in line. After the fight, Sylvester Stallone (Morgan Spector) was so inspired by the story he created Rocky. This put Chuck on a whole new level as he became recognized. This also however would put his life into a dangerous tailspin as he lost control of his own life also due to his new-found fame.
What makes this Film an interesting watch is the performance from its leading man, Liev Schreiber who delivers an absolute powerhouse of a performance. The way he carries himself as this prolific boxer, Chuck is truly remarkable. Also, performances from Jim Gaffigan and Elisabeth Moss are great as the latter worries about her husband and his impact on their daughter to great effect, while Gaffigan’s character wants to live though Chuck vicariously. Lastly, Ron Perlman who plays Al Braverman, Chuck’s trainer, also does an incredible job.
Lastly though, without strong direction from Philippe Falardeau, the performances would be meaningless. The way he interweaves three separate parts of Chuck’s life is seamless and cohesive.
Entract Films release CHUCK in Toronto on Friday, May 19, 2016 at Cineplex Yonge & Dundas.