24th Jan2014

Grudge Match – Film

by timbaros
images-80Raging Bull. Rocky. Robert DeNiro. Sylvester Stallone. Put these two legendary actors together in the same film, about boxing no less, and you think you would you have a classic in the making. Unfortunately, it’s more like an overcooked turkey.

DeNiro and Stallone play old boxing rivals who come out of retirement for one final match. DeNiro is Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Stallone plays Henry “Razor” Sharp. Back in 1983, when each man had won a fight against the other, Razor suddenly announced his retirement on the eve of their decisive match. So thirty years later, in Pittsburgh where both boxers are from and now live, this match is finally going to happen, thanks to local ‘boxing promoter’ Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart). At first it is not easy convincing each of them to go through with it. They are no longer in the good shape like they used to be oh so many years ago, and they’ve fallen into obscurity. However, Sharp could use the money to supplement his job of working in a mill, welding steel, and his hobby of turning scraps of metal into tiny animal sculptures. It is McDonnen who used his money wisely to become a successful businessman. But there is more unfinished business issues between both men – and her name is Sally (Kim Bassinger). Sally had a son with McDonnen but ended up in a relationship with Sharp. Now she has come out of the woodwork to get back together again with Sharp.
In promoting the fight, Sharp and McDonnen are asked to put on interactive body suits for a video boxing game, but the shoot gets out of hand as both men come to blows with each other, all of which is captured in the crews’ video phones. The footage goes viral, and before you know it, their fight becomes bigger than expected. Sharp enlists his trainer from the 1980’s, Louis “Lighting” Conlon (a very funny Alan Arkin – whose actually had never met nor worked with DeNiro and Stallone before this film) to get him into shape for the upcoming fight. Conlon is still as feisty as ever, even though he is in a wheelchair. He moves in with Sharp to watch his every move, training him in old school style. He puts Sharp through the paces, pool punching, flipping tires, pulling big rigs, and having him dip his fists in horse urine to toughen his skin. McDonnen, meanwhile has a useless personal trainer at the gym, so he enlists the son that he had with Sally, BJ (Jon Bernthal) who becomes his personal trainer after a few typical ‘father you weren’t there for me when I grew up’ scenes. BJ has a son Trey (Camden Gray) who provides the expected and prerequisite warm and fuzzy scenes, and who also is around when McDonnen says one too many BJ jokes, and also creating a double father-son element to the story.
The best part of the film is the actual match at the end of the movie. Sharp enters the ring dressed in classic black and white while McDonnen sports his trademark cloverleaf on the back of a sparkling emerald green Italian silk robe and black trunks, with more than 5,000 hand-beaded Swarvoski-crystals. And believe it or not, Stallone and DeNiro did all of their own boxing, making the match all the more real.
Say what you will, Grudge Match is a semi-funny but not hilarious film. I wonder why two screen legends – DeNiro and Stallone – would need to make a film such as this? They both first worked together in 1997’s acclaimed film Copland, a very dramatic film. Grudge Match is the complete opposite. Did both men just want to have fun and a good time by making this film? Stallone is 67 and Robert De Niro is 70, and while they both are in good shape for the age, it is painful to watch them in a film with an extremely bad script. As they both played boxers in the past, did they want to have closure? While of course Grudge Match won’t harm their careers, it is not just what you would expect from these screen legends. Sure, Stallone has made some turkeys in his time, and DeNiro’s last two films – The Family and Last Vegas – were both not very well received, but will the public embrace them, and this film, like a walk down memory lane? In a few of the flashback scenes, DeNiro and Stallone’s faces were digitally re-aged to place them on young fighters bodies. Ah, the good old days, when both men were making good movies.