Grudge Match has been described as “Rocky Balboa vs Raging Bull – 30 Years Later”, and it sums it up pretty well as it starts with dodgy CGI applied to their faces in flashback scenes to show how the two boxers might’ve looked at the time, even though we know how Sylvester Stallone (as Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp) and Robert De Niro (as Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen) looked not a lot like either of those, so it reminds you of the ‘younger’ Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy.
Despite them both making millions at the time, they largely pissed it up the wall and had to start working for a living. As the anniversary approaches and the work dries up faster than the Sahara on a hot day, this leads us on to the entering of Kevin Hart plays Dante Slate Jr, the son of the late Dante Slate, who was the Don King of the day.
He offers Razor $10,000 for an hour’s work to do the motion-capture for a boxing videogame. He’s conned into doing it alongside The Kid, although it results in them having an all-out scrap in green costumes, ends up on Youtube under the title “Two Old Guys Fighting” and goes viral, causing interest in a rematch proper to spiral.
There are scores of one-liners in Grudge Match but every single one of them falls flat, partly because the two leads mumble while Kevin Hart talks at 100mph. And it doesn’t take long before they’re in training and being subject to doctors’ examinations including a finger up the bum because when you’re old you’ve got to check for bad things up there.
The cast also includes Alan Arkin as Louis ‘Lightning’ Conlon, and LL Cool J as Frankie Brite, both initially training Razor and The Kid respectively, while family is randomly brought into the mix as Jon Bernthal (most recently seen in The Wolf of Wall Street), as boxing gym owner B.J., blurts out to The Kid that he is his son, Kim Basinger turns up as Sally, B.J.’s mother and the woman who came between the two boxers in lots of ways.
Also asleep at the switch is director Peter Segal, who hasn’t exactly got the best track record having been previously responsible for such movie classics as Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult. Exactly(!)
It’s film-plot-by-numbers, it’s predictable as the pain of a punch in the face and the yawn factor was high. There’s endless promotion for the eventual fight – rather like the endless promotion they did for this film – which means endless scenes that could’ve been easily cut down in number and far less of a boxing match we’re meant to be watching, which doesn’t start until 89 minutes in.
There’s constant reminders of the fact they’re all old. De Niro is told as he jump-ropes, “your moobs when you jump – it’s like bad Baywatch” and Alan Arkin telling Stallone during the fight, “Now hurry up, I gotta pee!”
If you can’t get enough of the two leads moaning about being old then Arkin does it also, while Hart comes as a Chris Rock copy, regularly moaning back at Arkin that he’s black, in his high-pitched voice.
As Grudge Match lumbers ever slowly to the fight proposed in the title, it not only going slowly but then also feels like it grinds to a halt. Did I get across the fact that this film is rather plodding? It’s almost two hours of plodding, but feels more like twenty-two.
At one point a song plays, repeating the refrain, “How you like me now?” I would’ve liked this film not to have been created.
The first three Rocky films were worth a watch, as is Rocky IV for seeing Stallone go up against Dolph Lundgren, but I gave the subsequent sequels a miss as they just seemed like a tired attempt to bring the character back. And, unlike the critics, I never rated Raging Bull. Just never liked it.
Overall, I can’t think of a single reason why anyone should bother watching Grudge Match and I begrudge the fact I wasted two hours of my life on this which I won’t get back. It makes 1995’s Judge Dredd look like a masterpiece.
Grudge Match is boring and I can’t fathom why it was even made other than to get Stallone and De Niro working together in lead roles from start to finish. It does that, but zero else.
My tip – wait until it comes on TV. And then go out.
Grudge Match is out in the cinema now and released on Blu-ray & DVD later this year. As I type, a date hasn’t yet been set but if you click on the above links and add it to your Amazon wish-list then you’ll soon find out. I would expect late April/early May.
Running time: 113 minutes
Released: January 24th 2013
Director: Peter Segal
Producers: Michael Ewing, Bill Gerber, Mark Steven Johnson, Ravi D. Mehta and Peter Segal
Screenplay: Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman
Music: Trevor Rabin
Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp: Sylvester Stallone
Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen: Robert De Niro
Dante Slate, Jr.: Kevin Hart
Louis ‘Lightning’ Conlon: Alan Arkin
Sally: Kim Basinger
B.J.: Jon Bernthal
Frankie Brite: LL Cool J
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.