This week, we had the final bonus screening for the Fall Semester of my movie class with a screening of “Grudge Match”, a sports drama starring Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone.
When two long-retired prizefighters are enticed to return to the ring, can they still make it a competitive match or will they merely result in embarrassing themselves?
Decades after retiring from the boxing ring, Razor (Stallone) finds himself barely scraping by; in his 60’s, he’s forced to return to the factory work he did before making it big. Razor did this because he’s completely lost the fortune he earned as a boxer. His main competitor in those days was Kid (De Niro), whose post-boxing life has turned out quite differently; as a bar owner and investor in an automobile dealership franchise, he’s rather well set up, at least from a financial standpoint. Even after all of these years, however, they continue to hate each other; their animosity stems from Razor’s retirement before their final bout, thus depriving Kid from proving he was the better fighter.
One day, Razor is approached by Dante (Kevin Hart), an aspiring promoter who tries to convince Razor to allow his likeness to be used in a computer game since it would bring them both a pretty decent payday. Needing the money desperately, Razor agrees to the deal. Upon arriving at the studio to record the game, Razor finds that his nemesis Kid is there also. It doesn’t take long for them to start tangling; when a video of their fight goes viral on the Internet, the two are offered a deal they both thought they’d never live to see: an opportunity to finally have the boxing match that they wanted to have 30 years ago.
Following some debate, Razor accepts the offer to get a much-needed cash infusion; Kid also signs up for it, but for different reasons – mostly, due to his pride and ego needing him to show the world he can beat Razor again. After they begin training for the bout, Razor comes to the bitter realization that his health limitations won’t allow him to fight, so he backs out. This of course totally infuriates Kid, who believes that Razor is once again refusing to a second rematch. Can Kid talk Razor into settling their score, or will Razor’s concerns for his well -being keep him permanently out of the ring?
Dumb movies can be good. Examples of dumb comedies include “Anchorman”, “There’s Something About Mary” and (obviously) “Dumb & Dumber”. There are, of course, quite a few action movies that would fall into that category, particularly franchises like “Dirty Harry”, “Fast & Furious” or “Die Hard”. “Grudge Match”, unfortunately, would not fall into the “good dumb” category for me – but the sparse crowd attending this screening might disagree since they seemed to enjoy it a good deal. A silly script with weak allusions to memorable scenes from the iconic films “Rocky” and “Raging Bull” are what contribute to this motion picture’s failure.
As good as Kim Basinger looks in “Grudge Match”, her role as a love interest of both men is something of a waste – pretty much just about anyone could have played this weak part, which is basically just a plot contrivance to get the viewer to more deeply appreciate the rivalry between these two former athletes. Alan Arkin has moments where he’s quite funny, but it seems somewhat of an accident of his talent rather than intentional placement in the film. The familiar names and faces – including LL Cool J, who makes a brief appearance as a celebrity trainer Kid tries to hire—appear to be there merely to keep the audience’s attention.
Following the screening, our instructor interviewed Alan Arkin, who portrayed Razor’s trainer. Arkin reminisced about his long and successful career; despite many hits, his life as an actor had many hills and valleys. Playing the character Yossarian in the film adaptation of Joseph Heller’s best-selling novel “Catch-22”, Arkin became severely depressed when the movie failed both critically and financially. He said that for quite some time, he kept refusing roles for fear of being in another flop. A former acting coach advised him to resume working because one of the offers might be good.
An Improvised Life: A Memoir: Alan Arkin: 9780306819667: Books