Kim Basinger takes her feminine supporting spot in a corner as two brutish males perform a boxing ritual for her affections in the asinine Grudge Match, pitting screen-only boxing legends against one another in a one-off exhibition. The two 70-ish pugilists rough up one another 30 years after their two bout-tie with a loudmouth Kevin Hart yammering on inconsequentially as a heated promoter, leaving Grudge Match a shell with convenient consequences.
De Niro and Stallone assault a staggering number of innocents in their saggy rough housing, this in-between contrivances which place the duo amongst their melting pasts mere weeks before the in-ring shuffle. Of course De Niro’s Billy “The Kid” McDonnen has a 30-something son he has never met who happens to be a boxing trainer. Of course Basinger chooses to re-insert herself into Henry “Razor” Sharp’s (Stallone) life as he begins chugging early morning egg yolks.
Grudge Match’s humorous center swings around Hart’s lean Chris Tucker mannerisms – funny in spurts – or a deluge of age-related gags all with obvious draws. Unlike the kooky spin of Last Vegas which charmed through a gentle retiree feud, Grudge Match is out for blood, and spill blood it will.
This Pittsburgh tale fails to exhibit grace, rather two men who would be better locked in Rocky V’s street punching close-out brawl. And, while it may elicit a smile to see references to Stallone inside of a meat locker during morning regimen, end effects are wasteful. Director Peter Segal’s overlong depiction of geriatric bruisers is rapidly out of steam, ironic since both of the stars were alive at a time when trains still used it to power their engines. They should know better, and that line lowered this review to their level.
Casting is undoubtedly intelligent and dashed with personal flavor. Grudge Match is shrouded by The Kid and Razor bumping gloves, but De Niro and Stallone are seeking a (final) return to career defining sports roles. Hefty front cover Photoshop weans decades from their faces and bodies as if to hide the implausibility of doctor’s clearing both for ring work, lubed up on screen rectal exams or otherwise.
Somewhere in this misguided holiday release fiasco sits a comfortable, old timey piece of cinematic work languishing at the mercy of Adam Sandler’s typical directorial choice. Cartoonish depictions of short stay prisons and a cringe inducing rape gag plant Grudge Match’s conceptual stage as 1990s scrap. Time has stepped on Grudge Match in both metaphorical and literal senses.
Punch drunk on digital lenses, this often visually boring depiction of elderly choreography is shrunken further by an encode which adds an increasingly identifiable Warner smear. Encoding practices continue to hamper this visual medium in motion when under this studio’s guidance, ripping fidelity from the frame creating a soggy appearance of limited bite. Compression is brutal.
Behind the bothering noise is Grudge Match’s indifferent appearance, usually spritzed with teal or dour primaries. Flesh tones are workable if flat, often requiring the pinch of black levels to add depth. When under black level guidance, this AVC encoded piece extends itself with notable weight. Contrast consistency is impressive for a film trapped in a menial visual space.
But, whether due to the compression bungling or source cinematography, this feature appears run down. Close-ups require assistance to breathe with these aging faces exhibiting on again, off again aging traits. Only during the ludicrous main event does fine detail become a consistent standard, if still bothered by lingering strands leftover during compression runs.
Pittsburgh generally walks away unscathed aside from a miserable aerial shot of low resolution, aliasing, and analog-esuqe shimmer. City exteriors are sharp and stable, granted leniency over those shots focused on this cast. Video performance peaks when in view of skyscrapers, bridges, or residential zones. Picking up on chipping shards of paint on Razor’s home is possible even at distance. Shame this does not account for all of Grudge Match.
Until Razor and The Kid step into a sold out stadium for their rumble, Grudge Match’s DTS-HD mix is in a relaxation mode. Blasts of music are adeptly handled along with splashes of ambiance inside of a factory, while center channel work is utilized as expected. Stereo strain is non-existent. Gym settings are flattened out with timid design despite crowded training floors.
By the time stadiums are filled (this also includes a brief interview during a UFC event), the mix picks up with sterling crowd placement in each channel. Punches have a naturally fleshy end result which sit nicely between audience shouts. While lacking a toughness or film-broadening design, Grudge Match’s audio proves inessential yet pleasing.
Peter Segal is all over this disc, introducing six deleted scenes, an alternate intro, two alternate endings, and a small segment of Kevin Hart’s additional lines. This is in addition to his featurette appearances as in The Bull and the Stallion, the longest offering here at 14-minutes as the two leads breakdown their characters. In the Ring with Kevin Hart sells the comedic actor sans subtly. Ringside with Tyson & Holyfield present real world stories, as does a separate bit with Larry Holmes.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.