Director: Peter Segal
Starring: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal
So let me get this straight. Instead of watching Rocky or Raging Bull, I decided to watch Grudge Match which is basically Rocky Balboa vs. Jake LaMotta with Grumpy Old Men thrown in there for some very forced laughs. In their glory days, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro) were two of the biggest boxers who battled each other for the prize title. Razor won one of the battles and Kid won the other battle. Before they could fight in the rubber match, Razor announced his retirement and a bitter feud was started between the two of them.
Thirty years pass and the guys have moved on from the sport each living their own lives in their new business ventures. Sports promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Hart) sees an opportunity he cannot pass up. He offers the former boxers $15,000 each to take part in making a video game putting the two rivals together. Razor only agrees if he does not have to face Kid while filming. What would the movie be if that actually happened. Kid shows up to the filming earlier than expected and antagonizes Razor for old time’s sake. Punches are thrown and their idiotic reunion is all captured by the production crew who all instantly put it online. The video goes viral and becomes a HUGE HIT! Offers come rolling in for an actual grudge match putting these two rivals back in the ring for the first time in decades. They are both past their prime physically so Razor hires his old trainer (Arkin) and Kid asks his son (Bernthal) to get him back in shape. Razor’s old flame Sally (Basinger) shows up and complicates things a bit further.
Let me just reiterate that there are three Oscar winners, one nominee, and Kevin Hart that all agreed to be in this movie. Now I expect Kevin Hart to do this type of movie. The role is very much his style and brand of comedy. He has a few other movies coming out soon where he plays similar types of roles. Do I expect a little more from De Niro, Stallone, Arkin, and Basinger? Yes. That is not to say that they should only be doing heavy material. There is something so cheesy and gimmicky about this reunion premise. There is no hiding the fact it’s a Rocky vs Raging Bull story. I am just surprised someone had the audacity to even pitch them this premise. De Niro and Stallone have both starred together in 1997’s Cop Land, which was pretty good if memory serves correctly. I probably would not even have that big of a problem with the film if it was written better. The script goes from trying so hard to pump out the laughs that it is working in overdrive trying to make sure Alan Arkin’s lines end in a punchline. Other times, it gets so lazy that any sort of twist or slightly dramatic moment is purely recycled from other movies that we have seen before, some of them you see coming a mile away. Kim Basinger has some pretty doozy lines that were laughable for the wrong reasons.
I do not know if it would have worked as a serious drama or if comedy was the better route to take. Since this is a reunion type of movie, they could have spent more time focusing on the past instead of treating it like a gimmick and joke. There are fun shots of a young Stallone and De Niro, but I think we could have used more of that. Maybe some cameos or supporting characters for Talia Shire or Cathy Moriarty? I think Jon Bernthal is the best part of the movie. There was something sweet about the son story line for Kid. I actually think the film had potential. There would be a good moment or scene where I was thinking that the film was picking up in quality and then it took three steps back. I just do not know what the point of the movie was. Was it the pure marketing ploy of putting two actors from legendary boxing movies back in the ring? If that was the sole reason, then I guess they succeeded. I think it is best to just go pop in the blu-rays of Rocky and Raging Bull and give them a fresh watch.
RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)