Posts Tagged ‘Jake LaMotta’

GRUDGE MATCH: 2 ½ STARS. “Rocky or Raging Bull, who’ll win in the ring?”

GrudgeMatch-Poster-PhotosSchoolyard game: In a fight between Dracula and Frankenstein, who would win?

Both have advantages. Dracula is a shape shifter and Frank has brute strength.

I think of this game and the raging debates it inspired between me and my eight-year-old friends because a new movie asks a similar question: Rocky or Raging Bull, who would prevail in a boxing match?

Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) are two retired Pittsburgh boxers with a history and a grudge. Thirty years ago they were at the top of their game, both with undefeated records, save for their fights against one another.

The grudge stems from Razor pulling the plug on their third fight, a championship bout that would have made them both superstars. Razor left the ring permanently, working in a steel mill. Kid, the more flamboyant of the pair, became a businessman, opening a car dealership and performing stand up comedy at his own restaurant, The Knocked Out Dinner and Theatre Club.

When the chance to finally step back into the ring, settle their grudge match and make “Kardashian sex tape” kind of money, it opens up thirty-year old wounds.

“Grudge Match” is a new story but with lots of elements that remind us of other movies. Rocky and Jake LaMotta… er, I mean, Razor and The Kid aren’t so much characters so much as they are brands, borrowed from better known movies to headline an old guy empowerment flick.

For every “If one of you gets knocked down, have you fallen and can’t get up?” gag, there is a scene of Stallone, age 67 or De Niro, age 70, punching someone or seducing a much younger woman.

The ghosts of movies past make appearances throughout. There’s a twist on the Rocky “beats the meat” scene in the original, and De Niro is essentially playing a cheerier version of La Motta.

But despite the echoes of classic movies that reverberate throughout, and obvious lines that make critics like me want to write snarky things—like Kevin Hart asking Stallone, “You know what this is?” and Sly replying, “A bad movie?” or a trainer played by L.L. Cool J telling De Niro, “A great performer knows when to get off the stage.”—“Grudge Match” grew on me.

The first hour feels stilted. Director Peter “Get Smart” Segal spends a bit too much time introducing old lovers (Kim Basinger) and illegitimate kids (former “Walking Dead” star Jon Bernthal) but once the exposition has been disposed of and the emotional foundation has been lain, “Grudge Match” becomes something akin to watching old friends on screen. The mushy stuff doesn’t work so well, but as the movie goes on you’ll find yourself rooting for the old guys to do some damage in the ring.

And they do. The big showdown, the Grudgement Day match is a pretty good fight scene (despite being presented by Geritol), except for the cheeseball montage of the fighter’s loved ones grimacing in the crowd, and despite a sentimental ending, closes the movie with a knockout (and NO that’s not a spoiler, just a turn of phrase).

I think “Grudge Match” will likely appeal to an older audience who can really get behind the idea of two old timers stepping up and reliving past glories. It’s occasionally funny—grandson Trey (Camden Gray) is a scene-stealer—and touching by times, just don’t go expecting any big surprises.