Grudgement Day: A 21st Century Rocky Movie?

Starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, Grudge Match can easily be interpreted as a 21st century continuation of the patriotic Rocky series. Stallone, who originally starred as the underdog Rocky Balboa in the 1990s movie series, draws back a fan base with the classic heart-warming rags to riches story.

With an enormous following in Pittsburgh, the epic fight series between two of the greatest fighters of the time ended in a disappointing stalemate.  After losing one match and winning the other, Henry “Razor” Sharp controversially announced his retirement before the tie-breaking match in 1983. In the following years, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen(de Niro) followed Sharp into retirement.

Much like his latest movies such as Escape Plan, Stallone assumes the reserved, witty, and hard worker role. Given the task of being funny and witty in his role as “Razor”, a retired boxer who lost nearly all his money to his agent, Stallone successfully changes his usual cool and intense demeanor to a more soft apathetic attitude. But after reconciling with Sally Rose (Kim Basigner), the boxer displays a little bit of a romantic and serious attitude. Much like his rival, Kid starts with an easy-going, party hard attitude, but with time, reduces the alcohol intake to embrace a loving family man role.

Kim Basinger, at age sixty, appears to look much younger by some decent camera work. Much to the liking of some audiences, the camera angles wipe out the possibility of spotting her wrinkles.  Throughout the movie, the writers obviously intended to portray her as a very attractive woman. Her acting skills fluctuate from good to bad throughout the movie. For instance, moments after surviving a serious car accident that should have killed anyone in real life, she talks without any speech impediments, and her facial expression seems more sad than shocked or hurt.  Again, the screen writers try to accentuate her attractiveness through other character’s lines, but in reality, her body expression is rather reserved in the entirety of the movie. Only in the last two scenes does she actually assume a physically active role while talking to Razor and congratulating him. Overall, her acting could have been better, but for most people, just seeing Basinger in a movie is a delight.

The classic overused scene where a father reunites with his son who doesn’t even recognize him adds a certain element of blandness to the movie. Although the father-son relationship must be used in order for the movie to coherently make sense, the writers could have definitely substituted the father-son relationship for something more dynamic. The acting between the grandfather, son, and grandson characters was fairly good.

Adding to the series of overused plot points, the scandal involving Kid and his grandson adds a serious element to the scenes preceding and succeeding it. A watershed to the good father-son relation, the scandal  offers its audience a captivating scene in a strangely humorous way. However, the scandal really boils down to an irresponsible man getting drunk and putting a child in danger. So, from that perspective, one can definitely say the turning point is boring and unappealing.

Humorously, Kid gets rejected from the head boxing instructor at his local gym only after receiving much ridicule. Realizing his reputation could be tarnished, the trainer assigns an overweight man with no knowledge of boxing to train a former professional boxer. His lazy acting entertains the audience more than was anticipated. So, as a part of a funny string of events that involves a painful prostate exam given to Stallone, the viewers pay for some innovative comedy.

Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), a poor agent, who successfully convinces the boxers to do the exhibition, completely nails the character of  a stereotypical angry black man. Screaming and hollering at anyone and at anytime for something that might financially devastate him, Slate has the audience laughing out of pity. Finally, he demonstrates his inability to abide the law when he parks his car during rush hour and walks away while shouting out to the nearby angry drivers that he’s rich now. Only his facial expressions and body language outperform his choice of words and the manner in which he says them. Simply put, he is arguably the best actor in the film.

Lightning (Alan Arking), who gives in and trains “Razor” for one last match, is undeniably a crazy old man. Begging for a TV to watch Dancing With The Stars, forcing Sharp to drink raw eggs, and forcing the boxer to soak his hands in animal urine, Lightning adds to the comedy. Also, his sexual jokes and provocations put Razor in awkward and interesting situations. The way in which the actor acts out the scenes puts him over the top as a good actor.

This film, which has essentially the same story line as the first four Rocky films, fails to meet expectations in the fight scene. The story, that builds its foundation on a grudge match known as Grudgement Day, uses all of its scenes to feed into the final scene, the fight. At first, one could think that the fight scene purposely used different lighting and graphics, but after further inspection one could deduce that the resolution is not any better than a video game. After just five seconds of viewing, the movie essentially crumbles apart because of the film’s inability to produce  a good fight. Although, De Niro and Stallone are middle-aged men, production should have seriously invested more time into the most important part of the movie. The fight scene lasts for more than ten minutes, and the entire ten minutes is just torture. All scenes after the fight lose meaning and purpose.

Even with funny characters like Lightning and Slate Jr. and the trash talking between the two boxers, the movie’s comedic lines do not compensate for the inherent flaw that is, the fight scene. Because the movie revolves around the fight and every scene builds up for the fight, the audience walks home asking, “Was that film worth my money?” For something so similar to the Rocky series, the movie is an upset. Definitely not one of Stallone’s better films.