Grudge Match (US - BD RA)
Gabe is not a fan of Grumpy Old Rocky vs. Geriatric Raging Bull action...
Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) are two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why, but effectively delivering a knockout punch to both their careers. Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart), seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all. (From Warner Bros’ official synopsis)
Grudge Match sounds like a fantastic idea on paper. It’s Rocky versus Raging Bull. Who wouldn’t want to see two of filmdom’s most beloved boxing movie icons pitted against each other, even in their old age? But where would such a story go that six Rocky movies and Scorsese’s epic hadn’t gone already? Well, it’s obvious – you spoof the material. And this is the point where the fantastic idea burns out into the ether of inevitability. It is no longer a movie anyone wants to make; it’s a movie that simply needs to be finished, released, and forgotten. So it’s time to call in director Peter Segal, a man that was seemingly conceived in a Hollywood lab with the sole purpose of ushering mediocre comedic concepts to completion. Segal’s career is made up of unavoidable sequels ( Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps), belated adaptations ( Get Smart) and, of course, high-concept couplings of actors past their prime ( My Fellow Americans). Armed with a script by Doug Ellin ( Phat Beach, Entourage) with script polishes from Letterman writer Rodney Rothman, the director set out to make the quintessential Peter Segal movie.
Grudge Match is exceedingly tedious and less funny than the already breathtakingly unfunny trailers implied. The jokes are old-fashioned without the charm that usually walks hand-in-hand with antiquity. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Billy and The Razor when people lob mean-spirited jabs at them about their ages, but it’s almost impossible to discern the difference between these and the gags that we’re supposed to laugh at. Wedge among stupid jokes about prostate exams and ‘dolphin safe’ tuna (as if non-dolphin safe tuna has been an issue in over a decade), Ellin recycles Stallone’s Rocky Balboa script (which was already a virtual remake of Rocky V) and pads it out with mawkish scenes between De Niro and Jon Bernthal, who replay every single estranged father & son cliché imaginable. Like most of Segal’s films, these attempts at sentiment and melodrama are the lowest of the low points. They’re tonally shallow and slow any momentum. I appreciate the attempts at dividing the audiences’ sympathies between the two characters, but it feels like an awful lot of filler in a comedy that shouldn’t have been longer than 90 minutes.
Stallone and De Niro clearly don’t care about what they’re doing, especially Stallone, whose eyes are so sad that I was afraid they’d slide right out of his head and down his cheeks. Their lack of on-screen chemistry is, however, the only source of laughs, specifically scenes where they’re forced to do publicity stunts for their fight. Alan Arkin’s appearance is actually more depressing, because it stands as further proof that he’s going to play variations on his Little Miss Sunshine character until he dies. Kevin Hart is the film’s MVP, but only because he’s able to say lines like ‘This is white people shit’ and ‘I just won the cracker lottery!’ without completely embarrassing himself.
Grudge Match was shot using Panavision Genesis HD cameras and is presented here in 1.85:1, 1080p HD video. The film begins with flashback footage that equates the look of aged film and video, but the bulk of the film is relatively dynamic, if not a little overly colour-corrected. Segal and cinematographer Dean Semler aim for a typical modern comedy look, including soft background focus, diffused highlights, and a warm overall tone. It sets itself apart from similar movies with more handheld camerawork and crushed black levels (clearly meant to ape John G. Avildsen and Stallone’s work on the Rocky movies). These harsh blacks help differentiate elements in wide shots and create sharper edges in close-ups. It appears that no one has fixed the Genesis camera’s problems with ghosting effects and these multiply during the darkest interior sequences, but there are no notable compression effects, even in the most diffused background light haloes. The colour grading changes up depending on venue, but tends to lean amber, red, and lavender overall, which is a nice break from the glut of orange & teal. The poppy yellow and red elements are particularly vivid without any bleeding effects.
This Blu-ray features a typical, low-key comedy DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The majority of the track is devoted to the centralized dialogue and the environmental effects included for ambient immersion, though even these tend to settle in the center channel. There aren’t any big standout moments, but the crowd noise during the fight scenes (especially the climax) is plenty immersive and gives the LFE a nice punch. Trevor Rabin’s mawkish score is mostly overwhelmed by choice cuts of pop and rock music (lots of George Thorogood, because that’s apparently what old guys listen to), which is thoroughly loud and nicely spread over the stereo speakers. Occasionally, the source songs blend back into the scene and move nicely into the rear channels. These, a car accident, and a couple of flashy punches represent the tracks only significant directional movement.
- The Bull & The Stallion (14:20, HD) – An EPK-style behind-the-scenes featurette that includes on-set footage, training footage, and cast & crew interviews.
- In the Ring with Kevin Hart (5:00, HD) – An excuse to praise the comedian’s performance.
- Ringside with Tyson & Holyfield (3:20, HD) – A publicity stunt discussion with the real-life boxers, who appear briefly at the very end of the movie.
- Blow for Blow with Larry Holmes (3:30, HD) – Footage of Segal interviewing the former heavyweight champion.
- Alternate opening with Peter Segal introduction/commentary (6:50, HD) – Extended footage of the creepy de-aged Stallone and De Niro and more footage of Hart introducing their rivalry.
- Alternate endings with Peter Segal introduction (3:20, HD) – Footage from versions of the film where the characters tie and another where a different character wins.
- Six deleted scenes with Peter Segal introductions (6:40, HD)
Grudge Match isn’t offensively bad, but it is a waste of concept and talent, which might be worse. Fans of the Rocky films and Raging Bull need not apply, unless they’re really tolerant of endless jokes at the expense of Stallone and De Niro’s advanced ages. Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray looks very nice, sounds expectedly understated, and features a decent collection of extras that include a number of deleted/alternate scenes.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 8th April 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish and French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: The Bull & The Stallion, In the Ring with Kevin Hart, Ringside with Tyson & Holyfield, Blow for Blow with Larry Holmes, Alternate Opening, Alternate Endings, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, UltraViolet Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 113 minutes
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