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Grudge Match (2013)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/8/2014

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/3/2014

There's nothing that Hollywood loves more than chasing a trend, especially when that trend will bring in more money. You don't have to work for AARP to know that Americans are living longer and thus we have a larger population of senior citizens. These individuals are amongst the first generations to have grown up with, and thus love, movies and we are beginning to see more and more specialized programming aimed at older adults. We recently saw Last Vegas, which showed that a group of older men, including Robert De Niro, could still party. De Niro now shows up in Grudge Match, another film which wants to prove what seniors can do.

Grudge Match introduces us to Henry "Razor" Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (Robert De Niro), two boxers who fought two monumental bouts in the 1980s, which each taking one of the fights. The public, and Billy, wanted a third match, but it never happened. Henry went to work in a steel mill, while Billy ran a bar and an auto dealership. Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), the son of a late boxing promoter, approaches Henry and Billy with an offer to appear in a boxing video game. Henry is hesitant, but he needs to money, mostly to support his former trainer, Louis (Alan Arkin). The motion-capture session turns into a brawl, which is captured on video and goes viral. This inspires Dante to arrange a re-match between the two boxers, both of which reluctantly agree. As they begin to train, relationships from their past are revealed and we begin to learn why the third fight never happened.

Sometimes a good idea is undeniable. Sylvester Stallone became famous and was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Rocky. Robert De Niro won an Oscar for his role as a boxer in Raging Bull, and many consider this to be one of his best performances. So, it makes perfect sense to bring these two actors together to play aging boxers who are past their prime. Now, the movie certainly isn't Rocky Balboa vs. Jake La Motta, but I'm sure that it was this premise which made the movie and easy sale to the producers.

So, it's a shame that this clever concept was placed inside of such a cliched movie. Writers Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman took the film's jumping off point and then loaded it to the top with every stereotypical sports movie plot point that you can think of, with a dash of average melodrama as well. The result is a movie which contains no tension. Nearly every moment is telegraphed and little of the story comes as a surprise. The only shocking moment comes out of nowhere, and while it's effective, we quickly realize that it's just another part of the cliche puzzle. I didn't go into Grudge Match expecting a truly twisty film, but the lack of original ideas really hurts the movie and makes the pacing seem very slack.

Grudge Match comes from Director Peter Segal, who has made some solid comedies, including Tommy Boy, so it's not surprising that there are many attempts at humor here. Most of the laughs come from Kevin Hart, who is simply doing his thing as Dante. And while I enjoy Hart and found his funny here, it's almost like he's in a completely different film at times, and I couldn't help but wonder what the target audience thought of his antics. As for De Niro and Stallone, they also get some funny lines, and it's always interesting to be reminded how funny Stallone can be.

In many ways, Grudge Match is a squandered opportunity. Take away the "Rocky vs. La Motta" angle and the familiar cast and you're left with a sappy movie which would play on one of those cable channels further down the dial. While the movie doesn't necessarily do anything wrong, it's lack of freshness keeps it from being interesting. Grudge Match offers a few laughs, one surprise, and some tender moments, but it's also a film which you'll forget soon afterwards, as if you were knocked out.

Grudge Match uses the word "crucible", which we don't hear enough in movies on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distinct grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright (although Segal is clearly going for a darker look here). The level of detail is very good, as we can see every line on Stallone and De Niro's faces and the depth clearly separates the actors from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects during the boxing matches are very good, as the roar of the crowd fills the rear channels. The punches are nicely defined by the subwoofer. The stereo effects show good separation.

The Grudge Match Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "The Bull & The Stallion" (14 minutes) takes us on-set to see the specifics of the film. Director Peter Segal tells us a bit about how the project came together. We see how the actors trained and how the fight scenes were choreographed. The inclusion of the comedic moments are explored, and we see how the final fight was staged. "In the Ring with Kevin Hart" (5 minutes) offers an interview with the actor, as well as some alternate scenes featuring Hart doing his thing. We get more of this in "Kevin Hart Unedited" (4 minutes), where the comedian is allowed to improvise. "Ringside with Tyson & Holyfield" (3 minutes) is an interview with the two fighters who talk about boxing and training. "Blow by Blow with Larry Holmes, Introduction by Peter Segal" (4 minutes) shows us interview footage with the fighter which was cut from the movie. We also get an "Alternate Opening" (7 minutes) and "Alternate Endings" (3 minutes), both of which are introduced by Segal. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes, complete with introductions by Segal. This includes more of the puppet scene, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long