Grudge Match seems to be the kind of “high concept” idea that would get green lit by a studio in these days of rebooting franchises. What if the old Rocky and old Raging Bull got together for one last fight? What if they did not like each other? What if we made this a comedy? Green light! Go make the movie.
I have to admit the idea was kind of novel and I bought into it. The execution worked for most of the movie except the end – which of course was the fight itself. By the end of the movie, I could only conjure up one word for this movie: Pleasant.
The movie follows two professional boxers, Razor (Sylvester Stallone) and The Kid (Robert De Niro). The two of them have some serious issues with each other. They had boxed twice thirty years ago, each winning one fight. Then Razor quits boxing all together to live an idilic life as a steel worker who’s hobby is to make steel rabbits (or are they dogs?) out of scrap metal. The Kid resents losing the last match to Razor and has been harboring hard feelings about it for thirty years. There is a love story folded into the movie and also a story about a father and son (and grandson) finding each other and bonding.
The two leads do what they can with what they are given. Stallone definitely comes out ahead. He has a natural ease about him and his charisma carries his performance. He is the gentle giant of the film and it really works. De Niro on the other hand is the grumpy one and is not as engaging as Stallone. De Niro is doing De Niro in this film.
Kim Basinger turns in a decent performance as does Kevin Hart. LL Cool J does what he can with his limited role. I was very happy to see Jon Bernthal (The Punisher from The Daredevil series) in a role that lets him perform something other than angry-and-out-for-revenge. The one person that got the most laughs out of me was Alan Arkin. That man not only had the best lines of the film, but he has some sharp comic timing.
The final fight, (yes, these two old guys do take off their shirts and get in the ring) was underwhelming, somewhat embarrassing (for De Niro, Stallone still is pretty fit) and ran for way too long. The final fight allowed the two main characters to find some sort of closure, I am not sure that was the best way of going at it.
Pleasant film. Worth watching if you stumble upon it, otherwise not worth going out of your way to see it.