A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout -- 30 years after their last match. (from MovieWeb.com)
Sylvester Stallone has been tenaciously keeping his career alive since the sixth Rocky film released in 2006. Now 67 years old, the famed actor has since released not two, but three action films containing aging action stars in The Expendables (the third is releasing this year). Still in impressive shape, the Italian Stallion returns to the ring with the 2013 sports comedy Grudge Match which pits him against 70-year-old Raging Bull star Robert De Niro.
The concept of Grudge Match -- two boxing stars who have 30 bitter years between them since their last match together (and they remain tied) -- seems like a can't-miss. With Stallone and De Niro at the forefront with support from another legend, Alan Arkin, and contemporary star Kevin Hart, it just seems like Grudge Match should be fun from start to finish. After all, director Peter Segal directed comedies like Anger Management, 50 First Dates, Get Smart and The Longest Yard remake. Improvisation was the name of the game in fleshing out Grudge Match, but the end result feels uneven and forced. The film tends to lumber along, relying way too much on "old" jokes, racial digs, and sexual comments.
Stallone and De Niro are fine in their own rights, but the script isn't a very strong one, and the drama that fuels their bad blood isn't really all that convincing. The skeptical film viewer will be annoyed by the obvious plot developments--from rekindled romance as the grudge tension heightens, to a long lost son showing up after his step father recently passed. It's forgivable in some cases, but when so much of the plot is driven by convenient developments, it becomes too noticeable to ignore.
Furthermore, the placement of Kevin Hart alone will make it or break it for viewers. While I loved Chris Tucker's schtick in the Rush Hour films, mainly because he played off so well from Jackie Chan, Hart channels a much similar energy but with much less amusing results. Hart feels like he's in the wrong movie and most of his jokes just don't work and aren't funny. To make matters worse, his jokes seem to be limited to mostly two topics - "white people" and old people. By the third or fourth "white people" crack, it just seems uncalled for. To contrast, Alan Arkin plays the crusty, dirty old man type that he seems to be playing in a lot of movies lately. It's become very stereotypical and most of his jokes are centered around the shock value of an old guy talking about sex and strippers. And when director Peter Segal states in the deleted scenes commentary that he cut out an erection joke (which was just mentioned verbally in the scene as a character joking to another character) because this is "a Christmas movie," you have to question the logic behind any of the way this film was constructed.
The only saving grace for Grudge Match is in the climactic duel between De Niro and Stallone. Fans of Rocky and Raging Bull alone will get a kick out of these two going toe-to-toe, even if it's not in their prime. Sure they look pretty mangled compared to their youthful days, but the epicness of the idea works in the film's favor. And to sell it, the actors do ALL of their own fighting themselves. Instead of just a few close-ups or using special effects, De Niro and Stallone do everything in the final fight themselves. They even take some real hits from each other, too. For the flashback scenes at the beginning of the movie, some pretty quality de-aging effects were used on fill-in actors to make them look like a younger De Niro and Stallone. It's not perfect, but it's pretty impressive regardless.
The content pushes the envelope like most of Segal's work. There's at least one "F" word and almost 40 uses of the "S" word, among many other colorful phrases. Sexual jokes fly left and right, often awkwardly so as well. There's mostly just sports violence (except there is a nonlethal car accident scene), with the actors' faces getting bruised and bloodied up by the end. There's also an implied sex (or oral sex?) scene where we find De Niro shirtless in his boxers in the back seat with a younger woman. But there's no blatant nudity in the movie. The most annoying part of the movie is the amount of profanity and how constant it seems. It feels gratuitous and just there for the sake of having it, not serving the story in any way (not that it'd be necessary for that reason either). Granted, the movie may not have been much better without it, but it does hurt the enjoyment of it.
Overall, Grudge Match is a wasted effort at something that could have and should have been a stronger effort. The idea is there; the execution just lacks. With the right script and a more skilled director, Grudge Match could have been the movie people talk about as a classic for years to come. Instead, it'll just be remembered for its final fight and its otherwise disappointing attempt at something great.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/6/14)
Behind the Scenes: The Bull and the Stallion (14:18) - This featurette talks about the legendary pairing of De Niro and Stallone, and their first on-screen reunion since starring together in Cop Land in 1997. We also hear here how there was a lot of adlibbing of lines. They also compare the many weeks-worth of shooting fights for Raging Bull and Rocky and how Segal only had 4 days to shoot the fight in this move, and how the actors had no stunt doubles. (There's 1 "F" word and some other language)
Behind the Scenes: In the Ring with Kevin Hart (5:00) - This featurette focuses on the casting of Kevin Hart as Dante and what he brings to the story. This one's really just for Hart's fans.
Behind the Scenes: Kevin Hart Unedited (3:57) - And as if the above wasn't enough, Segal introduces this segment as being a collection of alternate takes featuring Hart. It's pretty much all disposable and not very funny.
Ringside with Tyson and Holyfield (3:17) - This is a mock interview about training techniques with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield as it relates to Razor and Kid.
Blow by Blow with Larry Holmes with Intro by Peter Segal (3:34) - Larry Holmes visited the set and he recounts here his win against Muhammed Ali. This is a really cool one to watch.
Alternate Opening with Intro by Peter Segal (6:45) - Segal introduces a longer opening with more archival footage of a young Kid and Razor fighting. There are some vulgar lines here, including 3 uses of the "F" word by De Niro. The de-aging effects used in the finished film are incomplete here as well.
Alternate Endings with Introduction by Peter Segal (3:22) - Here are two simple alternate takes on the ending. One of them is where the two tie and the other is where the loser from the film wins here.
Deleted Scenes (6:44) - There are six deleted scenes, all with introductions by Segal. The first shows Kid attacking a puppet that is interviewing and mocking him. The second shows Razor visiting the video game company. Next, we see Kid getting a rubdown while using the top of a bar as a massage table. The guy massaging him makes a quip about being insulted if Kid didn't get a "hard on" from that massage (Segal says this was cut because Grudge Match is a "Christmas movie." But considering all the other junk in the movie, that makes absolutely no sense). Next is an alternate take of Dante with Holyfield and Tyson. Then there's another take of the Lightning, Razor and Dante watching TV. Lastly, we see some potential street thugs coming up to Razor in the dark. It turns out that they just want his autograph.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/6/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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