“Chuck” is a movie that will feel very familiar to most…that’s because it is based on the boxer Chuck Wepner, the real-life inspiration for Rocky Balboa, a character and a film that everybody has seen. Wepner (played by Liev Schreiber, who has simply never been better) was hand-picked to get a title shot against new Heavyweight Champ, Muhammad Ali (Pooch Hall) in the mid-70s and it was mainly a gimmick: The “Bleeder from Bayonne, New Jersey,” as Wepner was known, could take a punch, but mostly, he was the top-rated white contender at the time…it was a fight Ali needed to expand his reach. Little did the Champ know, this Wepner fellow had incredible stamina and heart, and he ended up going nearly 15 Rounds with Ali, bucking all odds. Because we know the story that this story inspired, it does hit upon some genre cliches, but the “big fight” sequence in this film happens only 30 minutes in…this tale is much less about boxing and much more about how a man who came from nothing manages his 15-minutes of fame. Schreiber gives a stand-out, knock-out performance, but the supporting cast – filled out with Elisabeth Moss, Ron Perlman, an almost unrecognizable Naomi Watts and Morgan Spector as Sylvester Stallone himself – will really have you up on the ropes. Grade: B+.
Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport. Run Time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Rated R. Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Naomi Watts, Ron Perlman, Pooch Hall, Morgan Spector. Directed by Philippe Falardeau (“My Internship in Canada,” “The Good Lie,” “Monsieur Lazhar”).