The public and Hollywood both love backstories and when given the chance to see the back story that inspired one of the greatest boxing films of all time I couldn't get to the theater fast enough. The film is called Chuck and it tells the story of Chuck Wepner, the New jersey heavyweight champion that was the inspiration for the character and film Rocky. The film stars Liev Schreiber as Chuck an aging boxer who is not great at throwing punches but can take a punch like it is nobodies business. He is living a typical life with his wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss) and their daughter Kimberly, with Chuck working as a liquor salesman to makes, ends meet between boxing matches. After a rise to the top of the Jersey boxing food chain, he strikes gold when his manager Al Braverman (Ron Perlman) negotiates a title fight with none other than world champion Muhammed Ali. With the odds slanted heavily against Chuck he takes the fight and then proceeds to take a 15 round beating from Ali. This is the fight that puts this underdog on the map and ultimately leads to the script for the film Rocky.
I was excited about this film. The backstory for Rocky?! Hell yes! The problem is that the real events sometimes are never as entertaining as you hope they would be. Schreiber's Chuck is a single-minded dolt. If he isn't thinking about boxing, he is thinking about women, if it is not women, then it is booze or drugs or himself. His selfish approach to basically everything is so off-putting it is hard to see why he has so many people in his life pulling for him to succeed. He has no problem cheating on his wife, who I can't understand for the life of me stays with him far longer than anyone should. His manager is clearly with him for the fights. His friend John (Jim Gaffigan) comes off as a leech with clearly no other friends. He forms a strange connection with a bartender named Linda, played by Naomi Watts (it is interesting to note that this is the last film Schrieber and Watts worked on together before their real-life separation). This is a guy who will willingly get into a boxing ring to fight a bear just to make a buck and stay in the headlines.
Maybe if the pacing of the movie had been better and if this film had been about 1/2 an hour shorter it would have worked better, but sadly it is about 2 hours long and you feel every second of it. The highlight of the movie is Elisabeth Moss. She is easily the shining star in the film. Schreiber does an okay job and the story itself it just meh. Like I said I wanted more from the movie or at least something that made you want to root for Chuck instead of hoping this guy gets a swift kick of reality in the ass sooner rather than later. We scored Chuck with a C-. This feels like a wait for it to be streaming or on demand film.
Chuck opens in theaters everywhere May 19th.