Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Grudge Match": Let's Get Ready To Bumble!

Now Available on Blu-Ray and DVD

Sometimes an idea is so stupid, Hollywood executives can't help but pounce on it.  Grudge Match is the child of one of those ideas.  Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro duke it out in a boxing match that only exists to remind the audience of much better movies that showcased their sports-acting abilities.  Problem is, this fan-service comes about thirty years too late.  Furthermore, in order to pad out two hours of run time, we're treated to some poor attempts at comedy and side plots that serve no purpose but to take up space on the DVD.

Let's start with the "comedy."  Most of it is just people throwing insults at each other.  Stallone and DeNiro's characters hate each other, and whenever they're in the same room, yelling is pretty much all they do.  There's a backstory about why they despite one another, but their conflict with one another never gets built up or satisfactorily resolved.  They show up, call each other old and fat, throw some punches, and then they separate for a few scenes before doing it all over again.  It's not funny and not fun to watch.  And the mean-spirited nature isn't just limited to those two.  Almost every character in this movie spouts some disgusting or insulting joke, and they get spouted so fast that there isn't any time for audience reaction.  Sometimes, we're even treated to a scene just to provide us with a sickening punch line, only to cut to another unrelated scene before we even have time to process it.  It's as if the director realized that the jokes weren't funny and decided to fire them off as fast as possible in hopes that we wouldn't notice.  That is, except when he finds a joke so funny that its necessary to repeat the same line of dialogue over and over again in order to convince us how funny it is.  It's painful to watch, especially when the hilarity is based on sexism, homophobia, molestation, and rape.  Har dee fucking har.

But that isn't all this piece of crap offers us.  The majority of the film consists of two concurrent plotlines, one in which Stallone tries to rekindle a relationship with his old girlfriend, the other in which DeNiro tries to establish a relationship with his estranged son and grandson.  This is all such filler, and it stretches the movie to unbearable lengths.  DeNiro remains an asshole throughout the entirety of the film, and he realizes the importance of being there for his family only because the Hollywood Law of Happy Endings demands it.  Stallone, on the other hand, does have some decent chemistry with his lady love, but it all becomes undermined when he decides to continue the fight against her wishes.  She's against the fight because he has a medical condition that could put his life in danger should he continue with the match.  But he gives a short speech and suddenly she's okay with the whole thing!  The script consists of such awfully poor and convenient writing, seeking mostly to waste nearly two hours of our time to bring us to the match.

Of course, once we get to the match, suddenly the two men realize the value of good sportsmanship and their character arcs take the bullet-train to conclusion town.  I really have to question the motivations of the filmmakers.  Who was this movie made for?  It seems to pander to fans of boxing and boxing films at every opportunity, even going so far as to give Stallone a token black factory-worker friend.  However, the movie is disgusting when it's trying to be funny, boring when it's trying to be serious, and by the time it gets to the actual fight, all sense of catharsis is lost.  I'm not sure that fans of a fast-paced sport like boxing would necessarily have the attention span to sit through all the filler.  If you want to see Stallone and DeNiro box, watch Rocky or Raging Bull.  Let this disk gather dust.

Which boxing film to you prefer more: Rocky or Raging Bull?  Or is that comparing apples and oranges?  Duke it out in the comments below.

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