Review: Grudge Match
Two aged former boxers are forced back into the ring to battle yet again. In their two fights during their prime, each man triumphed once, setting up a rubber match (or maybe, if you will, grudge match) to determine the true champion.
Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are the boxers Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen. Alan Arkin is Sharp’s trainer while Jon Bernthal helps out McDonnen, and Kevin Hart is the fast-talking agent who sets it all up. There is of course a romantic element, and that is filled by Kim Basinger. Oh, and there may be a couple cool cameos if you can make it to the end.
It seems there is no end to this genre where old men try to young again. They are all hanging on to their youth, and most of the time it results in a relatively balanced combination of sadness and entertainment. On the one hand it’s still a bit of fun to watch some legends screw around and embrace what was while poking fun at themselves, but on the other it’s still kind of silly and pathetic, a cheapened version of what was once great.
Stallone and De Niro are back in the ring – it doesn’t matter who their characters are, they’re versions of their former roles – and while that provides more than a few laughs here and there, Grudge Match fails by trying to do so much, so generally, and so half-heartedly.
It’s a bloated, silly, simplistic comedy that goes off the rails early and often and is full of clichéd stereotypes. Stallone is the more sympathetic of the two elderly former boxers, a decent man with maybe a heart of gold who has sad secrets in his past and doesn’t let anyone in. De Niro, meanwhile, is cocky, successful, and unreliable. He soon realizes he has a son and a grandson, and thus attempts to change his ways, while Stallone’s Sharp tries to be more open and let the happiness in, with the help of his irascible old trainer.
Kevin Hart cracks wise throughout as the smooth-talking fight manager who looks to make it big, and while some jokes riff on age and weight, others are about race and parenting and sex. Like Last Vegas and The Big Wedding, two other De Niro films this year about old people falling down, there are definitely jokes that hit and make you laugh, but there is just too much other unnecessary emphera that tries to make things remotely serious.
Grudge Match is utterly predictable and formulaic, more boring than it is funny, and doesn’t only take a back seat to some of the great award-worthy films of the season, but all the family-oriented tales of the season.
Should You See It?
No, please don’t. Although the credits scene is pretty spectacular, and redeems at least some of the less-than-mediocre journey.