Grudge Match: Movie Review
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert de Niro, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal, Kevin Hart
Director: Peter Seagal
It's a delicious idea - Rocky vs Raging Bull in the ring, mano a mano with only the bell to separate them.
It becomes a reality in this gentle comedy from the director of Get Smart and Anger Management.
Stallone is Henry "Razor" Sharp, a boxer who decided to retire when his nemesis, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro in feisty frowny form) slept with his girlfriend Sally Rose (Basinger). Denied the final title fight, a rivalry's formed through the years - and when their former promoter's son, Dante Slate Jr (Kevin hart) comes to them to offer a chance of a rematch on the 30th anniversary, only The Kid is keen.
But when Razor loses his job, and has no money, he has no choice....
However, will their out of the ring rivalry cause the rematch train to come off the tracks?
Let's pull no punches here, Grudge Match is a comedy that's a little thin on laughs, but gets by on a relative charm as its old timers creak along, complete with predictable side plots - a son comes out of the woodwork, facilitating necessary bonding, an age old score over romance has to be settled and old timers set back on the path of redemption.
Seagal makes good fist of it all (from what there is to work with), as you wait for the inevitable match up at the end - Razor's home in Pittsburgh is beautifully shot against the mists and the bridge, evoking a man who's fallen on hard times.
The major annoyance of the piece is Kevin Hart as the promoter, whose delivery verges on the Chris Tucker / Eddie Murphy motormouth excesses but simply ends up shouting his lines as his scenes draw to a limp conclusion. It's excruciating in places and puts your teeth on edge.
Alan Arkin offers up his usual slice of deadpan mischievous sarcasm as Razor's dad and Basinger is bland enough as the love interest. There are the obligatory training montages and moments as you'd expect in most boxing movies - and there's even scenes of Stallone trying to emote. De Niro still packs a punch as he wrestles with an average script and some phone it in dialogue (and corny cheeseball moments)- but the scenes of him training remind you of the wiriness of Jake La Motta and his physicality is impressive also as he skips around.
The relative knock out blow comes with the fight at the end, drowned as it is with nostalgia, though it's still lacking the killer punch it really needs - but Stallone and De Niro are to be commended for slugging it out in the ring (though you do wonder how many takes it took to get in the can) but to be honest, at this stage, it just looks like two old guys going at it.
All in all, Grudge Match does make you occasionally want to throw in the towel and has you leaving the cinema like you've been punched in the head - make sure you stick around for the credits as the promoter pitches another fight to two others who may have a score to settle; it delivers more of the laughs that you'd have expected from the film in the first place.