Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart
Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman (screenplay) and Tim Kelleher (story)
A rivalry 30 years in the making.
A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout -- 30 years after their last match.
$7,021,993 on 2,838 theaters
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Narration Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 113 min.
Release Date: 4/8/2014
• “The Bull and the Stallion” Featurette
• “In the Ring with Kevin Hart” Featurette
• “Kevin Hart Unedited” Featurette
• “Ringside with Tyson and Holyfield” Featurette
• “Blow By Blow with Larry Holmes” Featurette
• Alternate Opening
• Alternate Endings
• Deleted Scenes
• DVD Copy
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
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Grudge Match (2013)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 4, 2014)
If I had to guess, the pitch for 2013’s Grudge Match consisted of four words: “Rocky meets Raging Bull!” While that doesn’t literally manifest itself onscreen, the pairing of Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro – portrayers of probably the two most famous movie pugilists of all-time – forces audiences to view it as a mix of those roles, for good or for ill.
I vote mostly “for ill”, as Match reflects its predecessors enough to make us wish we were watching them instead. In the 1980s, boxers Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro) fought twice; Billy won the first bout, while Razor took the second. After Razor’s girlfriend cheats on him with Billy, Sharp abandons the fight game, so fans never got a much-desired third bout to settle the final champion.
Fast-forward 30 years and we meet Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), the son of a legendary but corrupt boxing promoter. Dante tries to make his own name in the game and gets involved when a software company wants to use Razor and Billy in a boxing video game. Razor resists but he needs the money to help his old trainer, Louis “Lightning” Conlon (Alan Arkin) so he agrees to participate in the motion capture session – as long as he doesn’t have to spend time around Billy.
While Razor tries to forget his boxing past, Billy feels haunted, as he desperately wanted the third fight that never occurred. He crashes Razor’s mo-cap session so he can taunt his old rival, and matters get violent. When video of their brawl goes viral, Dante pushes them to take it to the ring in front of paying customers. Eventually Razor agrees, so we follow the path to their much-delayed third fight and a mix of related personal topics.
Lots and lots of personal topics, as a matter of fact – so many that you might occasionally find Match to feel more like a Lifetime flick than a boxing film. Of course, neither Rocky nor Raging Bull obsessed over the pugilism, but those elements felt more present than they do in Match. I get the impression director Peter Segal really wants to tell the personal tales and he indulges boxing only when absolutely necessary.
That would be fine if those character bits were more interesting, but they tend to seem trite and forgettable. To their credit, Stallone and De Niro manage to do more than just emulate their earlier roles – especially De Niro. Billy definitely exhibits similarities to Jake La Motta – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Billy performs an act at his own nightclub – but he doesn’t turn into a copy. De Niro even shows a pulse in the part, as he feels reasonably invested. Given how often De Niro seems to sleepwalk through movies these days, it’s nice to see him engaged for once.
On the other hand, Stallone tends to underplay Razor, which gives his work an unfortunate sleepy vibe. In Stallone’s hands, “introverted” comes across as “sedated” and “disinterested”; he doesn’t harm the role, but Stallone can’t give the part the depth and nuance it needs. I think Stallone improves as the film goes, partly because it allows him to expand his emotional vocabulary, but he still seems a bit too detached.
I won’t blame him too much for his underwhelming turn, though, because he and De Niro and the others get stuck with such decidedly flat characters. The movie produces lots of soap opera drama and struggles to reconcile the issues in a natural manner. It feels like it throws in complications solely to drum up contrived drama that doesn’t really work.
Match becomes more interesting when it indulges its comedic side, but only to a moderate degree. Hart feels like he’s stuck in a white man’s idea of a black character; he’s energetic but doesn’t get much to do beyond stereotypical banter. Arkin almost always adds like to his roles, but even he can’t do much with this predictable part; he seems fairly disinterested in the movie.
I’ll say this for Match: at least it comes with a climactic fight that lacks a predictable conclusion. While we tend to like Razor more than Billy, we still genuinely don’t know who’ll win the bout at the end. I won’t say what happens, of course, other than to note the movie largely attempts to have its cake and eat it too; it’s not an unsatisfying finale, but it tries too hard to leave no feelings hurt.
That’s the main problem with Grudge Match in the end: it works overtime to ensure everyone leaves happy that it backfires. Rather than be glad that lessons are learned and lives improved, we feel like the flick takes the easy route and cops out. Occasional moments of entertainment exist, but they’re buried beneath predictable characters and sentiment.
Footnote: the end credits offer some interesting tidbits. In one, we find cameos from two athletes not seen elsewhere in the movie. This coda offers more pleasure than anything else in Match.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C
Grudge Match appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a consistently pleasing presentation.
Overall sharpness seemed solid. A couple of wide shots looked a smidgen soft, but those were the exception to the rule, as the majority of the flick was accurate and detailed. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Source flaws were absent, as the movie looked consistently clean.
Grudge Match fit into modern visual design with its teal-based palette. Actually, it mixed teal with a desaturated semi-sepia feel. Within those parameters, the hues were positive. Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows showed good smoothness and clarity. I felt happy with the transfer.
As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Grudge Match, it lacked a ton of ambition. The soundfield focused on music and ambience, though it opened up on occasion. For instance, fight scenes became more involving. This was still a character-based film, though, so the track didn’t have a lot to do.
Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music offered good clarity and range, and effects worked well enough. They didn’t have much to do, but they appeared reasonably accurate. All of this ended up as a perfectly satisfactory soundtrack.
When we shift to extras, we find a bunch of featurettes. The Bull and the Stallion goes for 14 minutes, 18 seconds and includes comments from director Peter Segal, producers Michael Ewing, Ravi Mehta and Bill Gerber, fight technical advisor Robert Sale, writer Tim Kelleher, stunt coordinator Kevin Scott, and actors Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Alan Arkin, LL Cool J, Jon Bernthal and Kevin Hart. The show looks at story/character areas, cast and performances, fight choreography and shooting the boxing. “Bull” comes with a pretty fluffy tone but it provides enough good info and shots from the set to be worth a look.
The next two programs focus on the film’s comedic supporting actor. We find In the Ring with Kevin Hart (5:00) and Kevin Hart Unedited (3:57). “Ring” includes notes from Hart, Segal, Mehta, Gerber, and Stallone, while “Unedited” features an intro from Segal. “Ring” is a standard piece that looks at Hart’s character and performance, and “Unedited” shows alternate lines/takes from Hart. Both offer decent value.
Former boxers pop up in the next two pieces. These include Ringside with Tyson and Holyfield (3:17) and Blow By Blow with Larry Holmes (3:34). In the first, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson reflect on the movie’s fighting/training and their own experiences, while the second gives us an intro from Segal before Holmes offers comments about his career. The segments are watchable but nothing memorable.
After this we find plenty of cut footage. We locate an Alternate Opening (6:45), two Alternate Endings (3:22) and six Deleted Scenes (6:44). The “Opening” gives us more history about the boxers and lets us see more of them in their younger days, while the “Endings” show different victors in the climactic boxing match. The “Endings” aren’t especially interesting, but the “Opening” gives us some fun bits.
As for the “Deleted Scenes”, they offer short, usually comedic beats. We find nothing substantial, but they can be enjoyable. Note that most of the clips come with intros from Segal; he tells us about the shots and why they were dropped.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Grudge Match. It includes the deleted scenes but lacks the other extras.
While it comes with an intriguing concept, Grudge Match lacks much to make it worthwhile. It indulges in too much soap opera and feels afraid to engage in the basic fun behind its premise. The Blu-ray delivers fairly strong picture and audio along with a decent roster of supplements. I feel pleased with this release but the movie itself leaves me cold.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars
| Number of Votes: 2