Two has been boxers with a grudge decide to fight each other again, 30 years after their last bout.
Grudge Match teams up Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, The Expendables) and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Meet the Parents) in a boxing comedy that tries very hard to replicate their iconic boxing roles through the filter of humor. What we get is a comedy that is never terribly funny, but has a few good chuckles. In fact, the film is almost more of a drama that succeeds in proving that Stallone can still act when presented with the right material, but De Niro can’t (or refuses to put any effort into it anymore). Yes, I just wrote that.
30 years ago, Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Stallone) and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (De Niro) each won one victory against each other. Before the third fight to prove who was the best, Razor retired for reasons only he knew. Razor blew all of his money and went to work at a factory while Kid opened a restaurant and car dealership. Razor moved on with his life, living as an old factory worker, paying for his trainers nursing home expenses, while Kid cannot accept the fact that he never got to settle his grudge against Razor, despite doing well for himself. When the son of their old boxing promoter shows up, Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), he offers Razor and Kid an option to provide motion capture for a video game. During the capture session, Razor and Kid get into a fight which sparks the idea of them fighting again in a grudge match. After some wrangling, Razor agrees, and the film follows the the two of them as they train, promote, and rekindle 30 year old romances in an attempt to regain their glory years.
The most interesting thing about this film is that it is actually more of a drama than a comedy. It tends to play things very straight with the majority of the comedy being supplied by Kevin Hart and his exchanges with Alan Arkin, who plays Razor’s old trainer, Lightning. I actually think I enjoyed this film more as a drama than I would have enjoyed it as a comedy.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have it’s funny parts. There are some very funny scenes in the film, including Razor and Kid attempting to sing the National Anthem at a monster truck show. There is also a very funny scene at UFC where Kid insults the fighters and Stallone knocks one out. Very funny stuff.
Before writing this review, I took a quick look at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, just to gauge the general consensus of the film. I read no reviews, just a cursory glance to see what the general critic community thought of the film. What I saw, numbers-wise, astounded me. They seriously disliked this film. I found that shocking because I liked it quite a bit. Perhaps they were expecting a straight up comedy. Perhaps they couldn’t separate Stallone and De Niro from the characters they played in Rocky and Raging Bull. Then again, I tend to rate on my enjoyment of the film. And I enjoyed this film.
Don’t believe the review ratings of the aggregate sites mentioned above. Grudge Match is an entertaining film that plays more as a drama than a comedy. It is a fun time and both Stallone and De Niro look great in the ring again. While the film played a little long and the final boxing bout was a little unbelievable, it is an entertaining ride with some very funny moments. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.
**1/2 out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- Production Budget: $40m. Worldwide Gross: $41,907,260. Yep, it bombed.
- Stallone was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for this film. He really shouldn’t have been. He proved he can still act here. It was De Niro coasting.
- There is a very funny after credits scene featuring Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson that is not to be missed.