‘Chuck’ review: Liev Schreiber film spotlights ‘Rocky’ inspiration


Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Starring Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss

Rated R

Playing at Regal Union Square, AMC Loews Lincoln Square

Chuck Wepner, the “Bayonne Bleeder” who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1975 and subsequently inspired “Rocky,” stands as little more than a footnote to history.

The biopic “Chuck” acknowledges this with the first lines of its opening narration (“You know me, but you don’t know you know me”) and never pretends to make something more out of its protagonist, which is refreshingly honest but dooms the movie by confining things to a generic depiction of blue-collar, Bayonne and ’70s hedonism.

Liev Schreiber plays the boxer, who also had a liquor route and, according to the movie, a habit of boozing, downing drugs and womanizing that defined him as much as anything else.

Filmmaker Philippe Falardeau painstakingly recreates the era, transcending the trappings like plaid jackets, big mustaches and sweaty disco clubs with an effortlessly naturalistic approach that directly reflects the prevailing cinematic style in Hollywood during the decade. The movie doesn’t just look like a ’70s movie; it feels like one, too.

Schreiber gives a performance of great conviction, in which his Chuck is both powerful and pathetic, often simultaneously.

The story’s just not as interesting as the filmmakers think it is; it spends too much time on Chuck’s downward spiral, and when it comes to this sort of life in this sort of place at this particular time, we’ve seen it all before.