I am pretty sure the studio pitch for “Grudge Match”, the latest would-be comedy from director Peter Segal went something like this…What if Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta (from Raging Bull) were now seniors and decided to get into the ring to fight each other? Now don’t get me wrong, that is not the worst idea for a movie, but the pitch had to be a whole lot better than the end result. Aside from a few minor chuckles, “Grudge Match” is a pretty awful film with unbelievably stale jokes that made me feel embarrassed for the actors who had to spew them.
On the eve of the decisive third match between Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) in 1983, Henry decided to retire from boxing without giving any reason why. This decision wound up costing Billy his boxing career as well. 30 years later, promoter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart) approaches the boxers about appearing in an upcoming video game. Needing the money to help care for his former trainer Louis “Lightning” Conlon (Alan Arkin), Henry takes Dante up on the offer as long as he doesn’t have to work with Billy. It turns out that Billy knocked up Henry’s old girlfriend Sally Rose (Kim Basinger).
Billy can’t resist the chance to face off against his old rival, so he shows up at the video game studio early just to egg on Henry. This escalates to a fight pretty quickly, which gets filmed and put on the internet. Now that the fight is viral with over a million views, the two are offered a big arena fight against each other.
To make things a bit more complicated, Billy meets his son BJ (Jon Bernthal) for the first time. Even though he knows it will piss off his mother Sally, he takes his father up on an offer to help him train. Sally on the other hand, wants to reconnect with her former flame Henry.
There isn’t much here to recommend. From the beginning we get to see young versions of the leads fighting each other back in 1983 and the process to make them look younger digitally used here looks so awkward. It looks like video game characters faces on real life bodies. Seeing Alan Arkin gyrating his hips in a sexual manner is something I wish to never see again, but the damage is done and that image is seared into my brain. The geriatric jokes in “Last Vegas” were a hell of a lot more clever than the ones here, but De Niro is even more annoying this time around. Bernthal is the only one that comes out of this trash unscathed. He is so smooth that it feels like his character is from a completely different movie.
If you want to see Stallone and De Niro bicker for two hours through a story that barely registers and void of any heart, then have it capped off by an extremely boring fight, it’s your time and money. Your best bet is to watch “Raging Bull” or any one of the “Rocky” movies again (Even “Rocky V”).
By: Marc Ferman