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Chuck Blu-ray Review

Chuck (2017) movie poster Chuck

Theatrical Release: May 5, 2017 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Philippe Falardeau / Writers: Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl, Michael Cristofer, Liev Schreiber (screenplay)

Cast: Liev Schreiber (Chuck Wepner), Elisabeth Moss (Phyllis Wepner), Ron Perlman (Al Braverman), Naomi Watts (Linda Pandoliano), Jim Gaffigan (John), Michael Rapaport (Don Wepner), Pooch Hall (Muhammad Ali), Morgan Spector (Sylvester Stallone), Jason Jones (Arty), William Hill (Paddy), Wass Stevens (Johnny Dicesare), Kelvin Hale (Charlie Polite), Megan Sikora (Flo Wepner), Emil Tonev (Fight Ref)

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Among sports movies, there is a disproportionate number that deal with boxing. It makes sense when you think about it.
A character study of an individual is bound to be more compelling than one about a team. And what is more cinematic than getting in a ring to throw and receive punches? Furthermore, whether real or invented, the type of person who would declare that brutal sport their calling is apt to be a source of anything from mild interest to extreme fascination.

While team sports movies almost always involve overcoming adversity and bonding to have a chance at victory in a big game, there is a wider range of stories to be told within boxing. Boxing can be the main focus, as in the Rocky series and its appealing sequel Creed. Or we can just have a boxer in the foreground and the conflict in their lives can transport us. This latter design is the one taken by films even more transcendent than Rocky, such as Raging Bull and The Fighter.

"Chuck" stars Liev Schreiber as heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner, who earns the nickname The Bayonne Bleeder, but does not care much for it.

The independent film Chuck is initially about boxing, but sticks with a boxer after he leaves the ring. Based on a true story, this rise and fall tale incidentally centers on the fighter who allegedly inspired the most famous boxing movie of all, the aforementioned Rocky.
We open in the mid-1970s when Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber, also a writer and producer), the pride of Bayonne, New Jersey, is aiming to fight George Foreman for the world heavyweight boxing championship. When Foreman loses to Muhammad Ali, it seems like Chuck's dreams are dashed. But Ali's savvy promoter Don King wants the champ to defend his crown against a white boxer, thinking a clash of races would make for a bigger draw. Since Wepner is the only white boxer among the top ten in the nation, he gets the surprise opportunity to vie for the heavyweight belt at Ohio's newly-opened Richfield Coliseum.

Though all of New Jersey is stoked for their boy to have a shot at The Greatest, some are considering the fight a lark. Wepner hopes to win, but even more so he wants to go the full 15 rounds. He falls just a few seconds short of that goal, losing in a technical knockout in the final round, but he's still given a hero's welcome back home. That title bout, however, will prove to be the apex of Wepner's boxing career. Soon, he's squaring off with wrestler Andre the Giant and later a Hollywood-seasoned brown bear.

But the movie isn't even halfway over by the time Chuck has lost to Ali. It follows through on the boxer's downward spiral into drugs, women, and depression. He at least flirts with other women, to the dismay of his mail carrier wife Phyl (Elisabeth Moss). Chuck thinks he's found something special with Linda (Naomi Watts), a bartender who shares his birthday and is sympathetic if not fully sold. But the big development in Chuck's life is the release of Rocky and the realization that he is apparently the real life inspiration for the working class hero of the multiple Oscar-winning 1976 drama written by and starring Sylvester Stallone.

The handlebar mustachioed Chuck plays up the seemingly obvious connection (which in reality, Stallone has disputed, but not to the point of stopping this from using "The Untold Story of The Inspiration for Rocky Balboa" as a tagline) and embellishes his involvement on the film, which was actually non-existent. But, with his friend John (Jim Gaffigan) at his side, Chuck tracks down Stallone (Morgan Spector), who is actually excited to meet "The Champ" and even shares his Rocky II script and extends an invitation for Chuck to read for a part. The boxer's coked-up audition is not a highlight and the descent continues.

For some movie buffs, the highlight of "Chuck" might be seeing Morgan Spector do a good job of mimicking a 1970s Sylvester Stallone, who invites Chuck to read for a role in "Rocky II."

Chuck is easily distinguished from other boxing movies, because its protagonist is more antihero than hero. The screenplay, which is attributed to two different duos, shows no reverence to Wepner, who is credited for the life story but was seemingly not employed in any way by the production. The film is funny but like most indies, it grounds the comedy in human drama. Wepner is amusing, but not a complete joke to the film, which takes seriously his romances and his strained relationship with his brother (Michael Rappaport).

Turning 50 next month, Schreiber seems too old to play a competitive boxer, though he has clearly gotten in shape and trained for this role to be passable in the ring besides very believable out of it. It's an obvious passion project for him and one can't fault the "Ray Donovan" star for doing this instead of collecting another The 5th Wave-type paycheck.
Other cast members you probably know but might not recognize, like Ron Perlman and the aforementioned Gaffigan, also buy into the project and lend some decent support. French-Canadian director Philippe Falardeau applies the steady hand the film needs, allowing it to succeed as both light comedy and light drama with tragic leanings.

Though well reviewed by critics (80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), Chuck was never going to be a movie with broad appeal. Hell, the last two theatrical boxing movies released (last year's long-forgotten Hands of Stone and Bleed for This) clearly had no business opening and expanding as wide as they did with their mid-five figure grosses. As a product of IFC Films, Chuck opened in just four theaters and only went as high as 120 as fringe counterprogramming to the first releases of the official summer movie season.

Like certain other IFC Films, this one came to home video from Paramount, who released it in simple Blu-ray and DVD editions last month.

Chuck Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($27.99 SRP) and Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Seemingly by design to suit the period, Chuck is a tad grainy. The 1.85:1 presentation makes use of high definition's clarity and generally pleases, but you can tell it is an indie and one which at times emulates the look of the old licensed footage it features. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack leaves nothing to be desired, engaging a bit more than expected.

In "All About 'Chuck'", a cleaner-shaven Liev Schreiber speaks next to the poster of the film he wrote, produced and stars in. Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) holds up his fists on the blue Chuck Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only video on the disc besides the movie and the opening Paramount logo is "All About Chuck" (3:28), which adds a little Schreiber interview to clips from the trailer or film itself.
One would expect more for a film based on a true story, but the audience for Chuck bonus features was probably small enough to forgive the menu using the singular "Extra."

No trailers for this or anything else are found on the disc, whose blue static, silent menu features Schreiber.

No digital copy is included here, which explains why the unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase (whose cover quote "The Goodfellas of boxing movies" seems pretty absurd) holds nothing but the plain blue disc.

Chuck (Liev Schreiber) celebrates Rocky's Best Picture win at the Academy Awards all by himself.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Chuck clearly isn't aimed at the masses, but this messy little comedy entertains as it tells a story you almost certainly didn't know about a figure considered an influence on a boxing movie you more than likely do know. Paramount's Blu-ray is as basic as any and the feature presentation can't really compare to big studio fare. But this disc merits a rental.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: All Eyez on Me Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Dean) Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer Free Fire
Liev Schreiber: Spotlight Pawn Sacrifice Fading Gigolo The 5th Wave Salt Ransom
Naomi Watts: Demolition St. Vincent The Ring | Elisabeth Moss: The One I Love Truth Meadowland High-Rise
Boxing: Rocky Creed The Fighter Southpaw Hands of Stone Bleed for This Million Dollar Baby Grudge Match
1970s: Invincible American Hustle The Hoax Kill the Irishman
Directed by Philippe Falardeau: The Good Lie

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Reviewed September 10, 2017.



Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 IFC Films, Millennnium Films, Jeff Rice Films, Mandalay Sports Media, CGF Production, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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