Warner Bros. Pictures’ new comedy “Grudge Match” pairs heavy hitters Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) and Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky” films, “The Expendables”) with the larger-than-life comedy of Kevin Hart and the irascible wit of Alan Arkin for a one-two punch for fans of every generation.
Even before De Niro’s “The Kid” and Stallone’s “Razor” get into the ring to settle their decades-old score, both the fists and the barbs fly across the screen as the two contenders prepare to meet in the rematch of the century.
In the film, De Niro and Stallone play Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Henry “Razor” Sharp, two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers. Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate, Jr., seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all.
But they may not have to wait that long: on their first encounter in decades, their long-festering feud erupts into an unintentionally hilarious melee that instantly goes viral. The sudden social media frenzy transforms their local grudge match into a must-see HBO event. Now, if they can just survive the training, they may actually live to fight again.
“I’ve always loved boxing, and I’ve always been attracted to second chance stories,” says comedy veteran Peter Segal, the film’s director and producer. “But even more important than the fight is the second chances the characters are given to repair relationships they destroyed three decades earlier. In essence, the fight becomes a metaphor for never giving up.”
Producer Bill Gerber remarks, “In addition to playing out an unresolved contention in the ring, this story felt like a great opportunity to talk about unresolved relationships. It shows the humanity—and the humor—of getting older and as I’m getting older, I’m interested in telling those stories.”
Screenwriter Tim Kelleher came up with the idea for “Grudge Match” after thinking about the almost-was 1999 heavyweight rematch between Larry Holmes and George Foreman, when both were 50 years old. Although the fight never came to pass, Kelleher says he couldn’t help but think of all the great fighters who were retired, but would love to box again if given a chance. He wondered, “What if there were two old fighters whose rivalry was legendary but never fully settled?”
With that in mind, Kelleher created the characters of Henry “Razor” Sharp and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen, two boxers from Pittsburgh whose rivalry brought them fame and fortune, until Razor unceremoniously dropped out of their decisive third bout, and both fell into obscurity. In “Grudge Match,” Razor and Kid are presented with the opportunity to return to a moment in time with the chance to do things differently.
“It’s about guys who were really tough in their time, but have lost their sense of identity,” Kelleher says. “Then, all of a sudden, they have a chance to go back and regain all of those things that made them who they were. But even if they want to fight each other, the question now is, can they?”
Opening across the Philippines in Jan. 15, 2014, “Grudge Match” will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Watch the trailer below: