De Niro & Stallone vs. a Bad Idea
Grudge Match Blu-ray Review
Raging Bull vs. Rocky was never a good idea; realistically, there was never going to be a pleasant outcome, particularly now, pairing the two now-elderly once-great titans in the ring for one final match.You have to wonder why Stallone and De Niro would ever agree to such a film. Perhaps it was the money, or perhaps it was just an excuse to get paid to get in shape – certainly De Niro hasn’t had any reason to be in this (comparatively) good shape for the best part of 20 years – but the Copland co-stars both deserve better material than this, and it’s frustrating to watch the wasted talent circling around the drain of a poor script and lightweight production.
De Niro, you would think, should know better, but – beyond Silver Linings Playbook – he hasn’t really shown even a glimpse of his former majesty in, well, a long time. Here he embraces his inner a-hole – something which he’s getting really good at doing – but misses more than he hits when it comes to the emotional arc of his character.Stallone is in better shape, with – recently – more credibility, but even he struggles to hold together the paper-thin story, that relies too much on stupid gags and doesn’t really give viewers anything to root for.
In fact, if you want a hint of what it might have been like to see Raging Bull vs. Rocky, in their prime, then the opening prologue delivers than in a few seconds of de-aged CG-smothered flashback. Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there on out.
Grudge Match Blu-ray Picture QualityPresented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, Grudge Match’s 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition rendition is a solid, frequently excellent offering that allows us superior detail for the most part, even if that only makes some of the less convincing CG touches even less convincing. Skin textures, clothing weaves and background detail is cleanly represented, with no signs of any edge enhancement, artifacting or banding, and even the infrequent hints of crush being largely negligible. Sure, there’s a nudge of softness in some of the sequences, but there’s nothing here to really detract from your enjoyment of the film.
Any misgivings you might had are largely forgivable for what is, generally, a very good presentation of a recent production.
The colour scheme is reasonably authentic but also fairly broad, with decent primary tones and strong black levels, allowing for decent darker sequences and impressive shadow detail. Contrast has been tweaked slightly in the direction of overblown whites, but, stylistically, it feels like that’s what they were going for. All in all, it’s a decent enough presentation, not demo material, but still very good indeed.
Grudge Match Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a solid offering, especially given the restrictions of the material itself, which boasts some more engaging fight sequences and song tracks, but also suffers from a few quieter lulls where there is simply nothing for the mix to play with.
The audio mix blends engaging training and fight sequences with substantial lulls, providing a somewhat inconsistent end result.
Dialogue is given precedence across the frontal array, offered up clearly and coherently throughout the piece even if it doesn’t always have a great deal to compete with. Effects are myriad, and generally come from the boxing-related moments – which encompass both the gym and training sequences as well as the fights themselves – and the noisy promotional segments, including a stomping monster truck scene, allowing for some reasonably impressive surround usage and a little LFE input to add some oomph to the blows. The trouble is the imbalance, with the alternation between large dialogue-driven segments and energetic fight-related sequences growing tiring after a while, and mix ultimately limited by the material on offer. Still, it’s a good representation of what’s on offer.
Grudge Match Blu-ray ExtrasA slew of comedy-based Extras make for a welcome, although not particular substantial package. The Bull & The Stallion spend a brief quarter-hour talking about the concept, eclectic cast and fight sequences before we delve into a couple of comedy Featurettes – the 5-minute In the Ring with Kevin Hart; the 4-minute Kevin Hart Unedited – and a couple of boxing Featurettes – Ringside with Tyson & Holyfield spends 3 minutes with the once-opponents and Blow by Blow with Larry Holmes has the former boxer take a 4-minute trip around the set. The disc is rounded off by 7 minutes of Deleted Scenes, split into 6 scenes, as well as an Alternate Opening, which runs at a whopping 7 minutes in itself, as well as two brief Alternate Endings, totalling 3 minutes. All of the extra footage comes with optional Director’s Commentary.
Is Grudge Match Blu-ray Worth BuyingPairing De Niro and Stallone for a boxing movie might have been an 80s dream, but it’s a 2014 nightmare, and, despite the occasional well-meaning of those involved, the cracks show through this piece almost throughout the runtime, making for frequently uncomfortable viewing as you realise what these two heavyweight performers are actually doing: pummelling your memories of everything good that they once did in the ring.
You may be better of avoiding this film if you don’t want to trample on your memories of the classics, Raging Bull and Rocky.
This Region Free UK Blu-ray boasts very good video and decent audio, despite the restrictions of the material, as well as a small salvo of extra features, including two alternate endings, not only taunting you with the one that would have made more sense within the context of the film’s universe, but also proving just how clueless the filmmakers were about where this story would go.
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