If you’ve ever watched the multiple Oscar-winning films Raging Bull and Rocky, and then thought to yourself, “Hey, what if Jake LaMotta took on the Italian Stallion in the ring? Who would win?” then Peter Segal’s Grudge Match is for you. Strike that. It’s for you if you want a light sports comedy that pokes fun at the aging fighters (and actors) rather than staying true to the dramatic roots of Martin Scorsese and John G. Avildsen’s iconic pictures. That’s not a knock on the movie, just an attempt to properly align your expectations. It’s an entertaining few rounds, even if it’s not a knockout. Hit the jump for my Grudge Match Blu-ray review.
Just to clarify, if you want a hard-hitting fighting drama that packs emotional gut punches, you’d be better off watching David O. Russell’s The Fighter or Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior. This is a straight-up comedy with a little bit of heart thrown in for good measure. Robert De Niro stars as Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen who lost a controversial boxing match to Stallone’s Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp 30 years ago. McDonnen is a boisterous blow-hard and a life-long womanizer, Sharp is a hard-working shut-in with a broken heart that has yet to mend. Other than their fighting history, the two washed-up boxers have one other thing in common: they’re flat broke. So when a chance encounter gives them the opportunity to settle old scores while putting some cash in their bank accounts, the has-beens reluctantly start down the road to the rematch.
And that road is full of jokes at the older guys’ expense, how they don’t understand modern technology or social media, and plenty of age-related physical humor to boot. But there’s also a thread of drama woven throughout the story, one that tells of romantic entanglements in their past that further complicates their present. It’s through this plot line that supporting actors Kim Basinger and and Jon Bernthal come into the picture. Basinger doesn’t add much, but Bernthal turns in a nice performance in his role. Kevin Hart brings his signature energy and improv style, which gives a nice balance to not only the principal characters, but to Alan Arkin’s sharp, sarcastic wit as Razor’s mentor and trainer, Louis ‘Lightning’ Conlon.
Stallone struggles with some of the character moments while De Niro just about walks through the physical portion of the plot, but it’s entertaining just to see the two of them together on screen. The supporting cast helps shore up the holes quite a bit. If you like Hart’s brand of comedy, then you already know what you’re getting from him, and Arkin brings a welcome counterpoint to his exuberance. It’s enough to make this one worth a rent, as long as you keep my earlier warnings about its tone in mind.
- Behind the Scenes: The Bull & The Stallion (15 minutes) – A behind-the-scenes featurette that focuses on De Niro and Stallone.
- Behind the Scenes: In the Ring with Kevin Hart (5 minutes) – A featurette highlighting Hart’s energetic promoter character.
- Behind the Scenes: Kevin Hart Unedited (5 minutes) – Alternate takes featuring Kevin Hart’s comedic and improv skills.
- Ringside with Tyson & Holyfied (5 minutes) – A mock interview with the boxing legends about the Grudgement Day fight and the fighters.
- Blow by Blow with Larry Holmes; Introduction by Peter Segal (3 minutes) – Former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes talks boxing history, fighting Muhammad Ali, and grudge matches.
- Alternate Opening with Introduction by Peter Segal (5 minutes) – Visual effects featurette showing how the two fighters were digitally de-aged in the alternate opening.
- Alternate Endings with Introduction by Peter Segal (3 minutes) – Two additional endings with varying outcomes of the final match.
- Deleted Scenes (6)