Grudge Match

Directed By: Peter Segal

Starring: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal, LL Cool J, and Kim Basinger

The AARP is getting into the holiday movie season!  They're giving us a pairing of the Raging Bull and Rocky as the 70 year-old Robert De Niro and the 67 year-old Sylvester Stallone square off on the big screen.  Ten to fifteen years ago, this might have been a halfway good idea.  As it stands, Grudge Match is set to be Grumpy Old Men on crack.  It just won't have the box office haul.  Really, the film concludes a year that seriously contrasts with the previous annum in terms of movies about the elderly.  Last year, we had gems like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Bernie.  This year, we have duds like Last Vegas and Grudge Match.  I've been saying that 2013 hasn’t offered as many great films as 2012, and this is another example of just that.

In 1982, Pittsburgh boxers Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) had a pair of legendary bouts in the squared circle.  In their first match-up, the Kid beat Razor.  The second time around, Razor beat the Kid.  Despite having the most popular fights since the Thrilla in Manila, Razor and the Kid did not have a grudge match to settle their tie.  For some unexplained personal reasons, Razor abruptly and shockingly announced his retirement from the world of boxing prior to the match-up.  This tanked both their careers.  Thirty years to the day of what would have marked their tiebreaker, Razor finds himself a poor shipyard worker spending what little he has to care for his onetime mentor and trainer Lightning (Alan Arkin).  For his part, Kid owns a bar and car dealership in Pittsburgh and to this day harbors resentment toward Razor for retiring prematurely.  All of this changes when Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart), the son of a late boxing promoter, comes to them with an opportunity to do some motion capture work for an upcoming videogame.

Needing the money to help make ends meet, Razor accepts Dante's offer on two conditions — that he's paid $15,000 for his services and that he doesn't see Kid at all.  Naturally, the arrogant Kid shows up during Razor's session at the motion capture studio to see his old in-ring nemesis.  Some words are said, and a fight breaks out between these two old geezers.  Surprisingly, this embarrassing debacle is recorded by one of the workers at the studio and goes viral on YouTube with more than a million hits.  Now, folks are actually craving the long-gestating grudge match between Razor and Kid. With some real money on the table, the two former boxers opt to try and get themselves back in shape and settle their age-old differences.  This proves to be a little more challenging than either of them anticipated.  Meanwhile, Razor's old girlfriend Sally (Kim Basinger) shows up ready to rekindle their old flame.

Sports comedy Grudge Match is anything but a good popcorn flick.  Featuring stale performances from a rather robust cast and poor writing from screenwriters Doug Ellin, Tim Kelleher, and Rodney Rothman, the film offers an uninteresting story and degrading humor.  With Sylvester Stallone's best never being good enough and De Niro mailing in yet another performance, it's needless to say that we can't invest in our two main characters and the events that have brought them to their unholy dance in the squared circle.  Underutilizing great comedic gold mines such as Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart trading barbs on camera, the screenwriters clearly dropped the ball as well.  All in all, Grudge Match is one bland affair.

With Kid's son being named BJ, there are frequent references throughout the film to the sexual act for which this abbreviation stands.  With Kid's grandson in the film as well, the powers that be decide to use the euphemism of Butterscotch Jellybeans for the deed.  This running joke throughout the film is emblematic of the sugary direction that plagues the film.  It's not enough that we have poor acting and writing, but Peter Segal jumps in the game from the director's chair and shows us how to make the nightmare match-up between Rocky and the Raging Bull utterly saccharine.  You can see it in the overly sympathetic depictions of these characters and hear it in the homey selections made for the film's soundtrack.  This cheesy direction just doesn't work.

Ten or fifteen years ago, Grudge Match may have worked.  As it stands, however, we're left with a hollow money grab that does nothing but disappoint.  All I can say is that you'll need a few rounds of Scotch to help deal with all those Butterscotch Jellybeans.  Grudge Match gets a 0.09% rating.  If you dare watch this sad excuse for a movie, stick around for a post-credits scene advocating for a real-life grudge match between two boxing legends.