Grudge Match Blu-ray Review
Sports movie fans probably wouldn’t take the time to wonder what would happen if the Charlestown Chiefs entered the rink with the Mighty Ducks, or if Henry Rowengartner was subjected to more hours of child labor than Billy Heywood. But they have likely pondered and debated, Who would still be standing if Rocky Balboa squared off against Jake LaMotta?
That’s the hook of GRUDGE MATCH, which bothers to pit Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) against Robert De Niro (The Raging Bull) some three decades after the peak of our caring.
The movie opens with a sportscaster setting up a brief documentary about the rivalry between Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro). In the time since their last match, Razor has started working a blue-collar job at a shipyard and The Kid has taken up standup comedy. Both are informed by Razor’s manager, Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart, RIDE ALONG), that a paycheck awaits if they agree to lend their moves and voices to a video game. It’s there that they meet for the first time since their last bout and quickly start throwing insults, punches and all of the high-tech equipment in the room. The skirmish goes viral and each man is offered $75,000 to step in the ring one more time. Razor is reluctant, but we know that the last 15 minutes will be devoted to the rubber match.
The contracts are signed and the teams are assembled. In Razor’s corner is his elderly manager, Lightning (Alan Arkin, ARGO), and in The Kid’s is B.J. (Joe Bernthal, who appeared on AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD), who turns up at just the right time to introduce himself as his son. There’s also Sally (Kim Basinger, CHARLIE ST. CLOUD), who also comes out of the woodwork at the most opportune moment.
There’s nothing in GRUDGE MATCH that hasn’t been seen countless times before. The screenplay, by Doug Ellin, Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, managed to get the attention of Stallone and De Niro, but there is no substance here. The main characters have so little to do (other than train and complain) that the movie resorts to dropping them out of an airplane.
We’re supposed to care about the journey, but when the finish line is two men whose combined age is around 140 hopping in a ring and beating each other up, it’s all sort of sad, pathetic and, considering the number of characters cashing in on it, exploitative.
This is a solid cast, but the actors are mostly given a series of weak one-liners and made to stoop to lame jabs. The bulk of the humor comes at the expense of Lighting’s age (“What was Jesus like?”), Dante’s height (Short plus black equals Webster), the boxers’ fragility (“Is it safe to say that when one of you gets knocked down, you’ve fallen and you can’t get up?”) and B.J.’s name (figure it out).
The whole movie is half-hearted. Even the ROCKY nod, with Stallone in a meat locker, ends with him not landing a right hook, but merely staring at the meat. With that dodge, the movie could have at least had a scene with De Niro berating a waitress about an overcooked steak.
GRUDGE MATCH BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer of GRUDGE MATCH looks excellent, boasting fine details and textures and stable colors and tones.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The audio transfer is also great and features clean dialogue, a strong soundtrack/score and effective foley work during the titular bout.
The Bull & the Stallion (14:18): This featurette looks at the cast, boxing choreography, comedy and, of course, the ROCKY/RAGING BULL aspect of GRUDGE MATCH.
In the Ring with Kevin Hart (5:00): Hart is spotlighted.
Kevin Hart Unedited (3:57) compiles footage of Hart onset.
Ringside with Tyson & Holyfield (3:17): Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield discuss some of the training and their cameo scene.
Blow by Blow with Larry Holmes (3:34): Former heavyweight boxer Holmes talks about his fight with Muhammad Ali
Alternate Opening (6:45)
Alternate Endings (3:22)
Deleted Scenes (6:44): There are six here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Kid vs. Jabby,” “Callahan Interactive,” “The Rubdown,” “Iron Mike and The Real Deal,” “Lightning’s TV” and “Razor’s Autograph.”