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Philippe Falardeau
Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss
Writing Credits:
Jeff Feuerzeig, Jerry Stahl, Michael Cristofer, Liev Schreiber

A drama inspired by the life of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 8/15/2017

• “All About Chuck” Featurette


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Chuck [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 14, 2017)

Back in the 1970s, boxer Chuck Wepner became the inspiration for 1976’s Rocky. All these decades later, the fighter gets his own film via 2017’s aptly-named Chuck.

Known as “The Bayonne Bleeder”, New Jersey boxer Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) gets a reputation as a tough cookie who can take ample physical abuse. He boasts enough punching skill to rise through the ranks and eventually get a 1975 shot at the championship against Muhammad Ali (Pooch Hall).

In addition to a view of his boxing career, Chuck looks at Wepner’s private life. We join Chuck with his second wife Phyllis (Elisabeth Moss) and their kids – and also see Chuck’s pursuit of Linda (Naomi Watts), a bartender who becomes his third wife.

Unlike Rocky, Chuck doesn’t give us a boxing match as its climax. Indeed, Wepner’s bout with Ali shows up about one-third of the way into the movie, and when it concludes, the film barely dallies with Wepner’s fighting career again.

On the surface, that choice makes sense, as Chuck wants to focus more on Wepner’s “fall” than on his “rise”. The final hour or so of the movie sticks with the poor way Wepner handles his newfound fame and the ways he eventually copes with his issues.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the positive side of the tale, but Chuck fares much better during its initial act. We get an interesting character narrative that proceeds to the compelling bout against Ali.

After that, like Wepner’s life, the film tends to fall apart somewhat. I don’t want to overstate the manner in which Chuck loses steam, but it tends to feel tedious as we watch Chuck do a lot of cocaine, fool around with a lot of women and generally fall into disrepute.

Some of this goes a long way, and I suspect Chuck might’ve worked better if the Ali fight came up an hour into the movie instead of at the 30-minute point. We’d still have plenty of time to see Wepner’s downfall, but the tale wouldn’t wallow so much in this misery.

If Chuck came with ample insights, that wallowing would pay off, but it tends to remain superficial. I don’t feel like it tells us much about Wepner as a person, so the second and third acts feel repetitive and sluggish.

Despite these drawbacks, Schreiber does well as our lead. Though too old to play Wepner in the 70s, he makes us forget the age difference, as Schreiber gives us a warm, human take on his role. The supporting cast does nicely as well, but Schreiber offers the best parts of the film.

Unfortunately, the movie itself lets him down, as Chuck just lacks real drive much of the time. It wears too much of a Scorsese influence on its sleeve – mainly in the GoodFellas vein – and loses steam long before it ends.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Chuck appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an accurate representation of the source.

That meant erratic visuals, as Chuck opted for an intentionally degraded look. The film used a fair amount of archival footage, and the main material boasted a high level of grain to match. The older shots also came with a mix of source flaws, which the modern film occasionally – but not usually – used as well. Given the movie’s stylistic conceits, the grain and “defects” seemed fine.

Sharpness remained largely positive. Occasional softness hit some wider shots, but the majority of the movie showed nice clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes failed to mar the proceedings.

Orange dominated the film’s palette but didn’t stand alone, as instances of heavy reds, purples, greens and blues also appeared. The Blu-ray rendered these well, and blacks looked dark and tight. Shadows worked fine as well, with nice opacity. I thought the transfer was fine for the material.

Similar thoughts came with the movie’s respectable DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The soundscape remained fairly restrained as only occasional scenes came to life in a prominent manner.

As expected, boxing sequences added involvement, and bars also brought out some good information. Much of the movie remained chatty, though, so don’t expect a consistently vivid soundfield.

Audio quality appeared positive, with concise, natural dialogue. Music sounded vibrant and full, while effects boasted fine accuracy and heft. The soundtrack didn’t dazzle but it did what it needed to do.

All About Chuck runs three minutes, 28 seconds and provides comments from writer/actor Liev Schreiber. He tells us a little about the real Wepner and aspects of the shoot. However, movie clips dominate this promo piece, so we learn little.

As much as I like Liev Schreiber’s excellent performance as the lead, Chuck ends up as a pretty mediocre movie. While it fares well in its first act, the remaining hour loses its way. The Blu-ray offers appropriate picture and audio but skimps on supplements. Though Scheiber’s acting keeps us with the film, the end result sputters too much of the time.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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