We have to thank Chuck Wepner for taking on Muhammad Ali, because of the inspiration he’s given in Bayonne, NJ, and for inspiring the movie “Rocky.” That’s right. It’s the real Rocky Balboa, only his nickname, as much as he dislikes it, is “The Bayonne Bleeder.”
“Chuck” is the entertaining boxing movie that stars Liev Schreiber in a (dare I say it) knock-out performance as Chuck Wepner, who manages to score a fight with Ali (Pooch Hall), and even if he loses, he’s still grateful to be fighting The People’s Champion. This fight is why Sylvester Stallone (Morgan Spector) wrote the script for “Rocky,” making Chuck an even bigger star in Jersey. And these two even hook up to see if they can come up with an inspiration for “Rocky II.”
The movie deals with more than just Chuck’s fame; it also deals with his life as a coke head and a womanizer. His second wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss) is infuriated by those two things, that she boots him out of their home. He even tries to hook up with a bartender (Naomi Watts), who will eventually become his third wife.
You don’t just have to thank Schreiber, Watts, Moss, and Spector for their fresh performances. The nice cast also includes Ron Perlman as Chuck’s tough-as-balls manager and trainer, who hooks him up with Ali; Jim Gaffigan as his best friend, who convinces Phyllis to support her husband during the fight; and Michael Rapaport as his estranged brother, who hates him for his messed-up choices, but cares about him on the inside.
Directed by Philippe Falardeau, “Chuck” should teach a new generation of movie goers about how “Rocky” came to be. But it isn’t about that: it’s about how the basis resorted to cocaine and sex, and how his behavior affects his family members. And you’ll just love Schreiber’s narration. I didn’t get with the movie only a few times, but still, it’s a wild ride.