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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Grudge Match

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star in a scene from the movie "Grudge Match."
It's Rocky versus Raging Bull as Sylvester Stallone climbs into the ring with Robert De Niro for "Grudge Match" (Warner Bros.).

This comedy about retired boxing rivals working to get back into shape in preparation for their long-deferred final showdown amuses intermittently. But its theme of family reconciliation is undercut by the misuse of a child actor's age-appropriate innocence to forward some of the script's frequent sex jokes as well as by dialogue chockablock with foul vocabulary.

As an ESPN-style opening montage informs us, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) were the outstanding fighters of their Reagan-era heyday. Each managed to score a single victory over the other. But, on the eve of a scheduled tie-breaker, Razor inexplicably announced his retirement, leaving fans to speculate for decades over what might have been.

Fast forward to the present and a raucous confrontation between the two old enemies goes viral on the web, and puts dollar signs in the eyes of down-on-his-luck promoter Dante Slate (Kevin Hart). Though reluctant to have anything to do with The Kid, steelworker Razor, who squandered his fortune soon after retiring, needs the cash Dante is offering, while The Kid, a successful car dealer, is determined to prove he was the true champ.

So they get ready to rumble.

Besides their professional competition, Razor and The Kid have unresolved personal issues fueling their mutual antagonism: Back when they were first duking it out, The Kid had a one-night stand with Razor's true love Sally Rose (Kim Basinger) that resulted in the couple's breakup—and in the birth of Sally's now-grown son BJ (Jon Bernthal).

Despite Sally's warnings that The Kid is a louse, BJ wants to get to know his dad and wants his young son Trey (Camden Gray) to spend time with grandpa as well. So he agrees to put his own knowledge of the sweet science to work as The Kid's trainer.

Here Director Peter Segal and screenwriters Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman introduce a troubling aspect to the proceedings less predictable than the flow of vulgarity that prevails throughout.

Trey's ignorance of such matters as the obscene interpretation that can be put on his father's initials is played on extensively. And the boy is later made to intrude on the aftermath of a casual sexual liaison. His proximity to such talk and behavior is, needless to say, more unsettling than humorous. It lends an unsavory air to the picture as a whole.

The film contains mature themes, including promiscuity, pugilistic violence, an off-screen nonmarital encounter, much sexual humor, about a dozen uses of profanity, a single bleeped instance of the F-word and pervasive crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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