Chuck SPOILER-FREE Review
I knew nothing about Chuck prior to seeing it in the theater. I knew the basic premise, and that was it. I hadn't even seen a trailer. Every once in a while, I'll have an experience like this where I get to see a movie knowing virtually nothing about it. And it's fun. In an age where blockbusters will get four or five trailers that spoil the entire plot, where we follow every little detail that makes its way onto the internet, sometimes it's nice to just watch a movie completely fresh. Needless to say, I didn't know what to expect out of Chuck. I was hoping to learn some history about the making of Rocky, a film I really love. I was also looking for some great performances. And with a stacked cast like Liev Scrhieber, Jim Gaffigan, Naomi Watts, Elisabeth Moss, Ron Perlman, and Michael Rapaport, I knew I was bound to get some really good performances. And I walked out getting precisely that. Ironically, Chuck isn't nearly as good of a film as Rocky is, but it serves to give some really interesting background, as well as provide us with a slew of great performances.
Chuck follows the life of small-time boxer Chuck Wepner (Schrieber), who served as the inspiration for the Sylvester Stallone classic, Rocky.
The first thing Chuck did right was it allowed me to be immersed into this world. The film takes place in the 60's and 70's, and I felt like I was right there! Everything from the costumes to the production design to being made on film, it all worked to create a very vintage look. I felt like I was right with these characters, and I think all the time and care that went into crafting the look of the film needs to be recognized. To take it a step further, the performances are what ultimately sold me. Sure, everything looked gorgeous and vintage, but I was not watching actors; I was watching characters. And that was key in selling me on this world they were displaying. Schrieber is fantastic in this movie! This may be the strongest performance I've seen him give. He, and everyone else too, was almost unrecognizable. This character could easily have been played as one-note, but Schrieber brought so many different layers to him. You understand that he's a really despicable guy, but Schrieber lets you see that he's really a broken man who has lost his way. You're not exactly sure whether Chuck is the protagonist or the antagonist, but it's the subtlety of Schrieber's acting that really lets you buy into this complex character.
The other supporting performances are great as well. I love Jim Gaffigan as a comedian, but I haven't seen him in a lot of movies. He wasn't groundbreaking in his role, but he was a really strong supporting actor. Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts were great in their roles. Michael Rapaport has a small role in the movie, but I thought he was effective. The same could be said for Ron Perlman as well. They got Morgan Spector to play Sylvester Stallone, and I'm mixed on it. Spector nailed the voice! He had it down perfectly. And he looked a lot like a younger Stallone. I think Spector was the best guy they could have cast to play Stallone. However, Stallone is just such a recognizable actor that it's hard to see Spector as Stallone in your head. It was eating at me the entire time he was on screen. It has nothing to do with the casting, or with Spector's performance. He was the best actor for the role, and he did a great job! It's just that Stallone is such a unique person, that it's hard to cast somebody as him and see that person solely as Sylvester Stallone. In terms of negatives, I thought the first thirty minutes of the film, before the Rocky element of the story, kind of dragged. It played as a traditional boxing movie that's been done about a thousand times. Once we got into Rocky, then it became interesting because that was what was unique about the movie. But those first thirty or so minutes dragged a bit. I don't have a ton of negatives, but that's not to say that I thought this was a masterpiece of a film. It's really good, but it's the kind of movie that you enjoy seeing, and you're glad you saw, but you'll completely forget you ever saw it a couple months down the line.
Overall, Chuck is a really good movie. It tells the fascinating story of the inspiration for Rocky, and I was riveted by all of that backstory. At the same time, we see the rise and downfall of Chuck Wepner, played excellently by Liev Schrieber. He brought a lot of layers to the character, and allowed you to connect with him, when you could easily have just seen him as a scumbag. The supporting cast, including Jim Gaffigan, Elisabeth Moss, Noami Watts, Ron Perlman, and Michael Rapaport, were all really good as well. The costume design and the production design were excellent in setting the mood, and worked to sell this as taking place in the 60's and 70's. All the visual elements were great. However, I do think the first thirty or so minutes prior to the introduction of the Rocky storyline dragged. It played out as just being a traditional boxing movie, and that wasn't nearly as interesting as finding out all the hidden drama involving Rocky being made. In the end. Chuck is definitely worth seeing for fans of Rocky or of boxing, but it's one of those really good movies that you'll end up forgetting you ever saw.
What do you think? Have you seen Chuck? Did you like the film? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
Written by: Nate
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