Geriatric Fight Night – a review of Grudge Match
Title: Grudge Match
Production Company: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 113 minutes
Director: Peter Segal
Stars: Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal
Summary: 30 years after their last fight, two boxers step into the ring one more time trying to even a score that occurred years earlier. A decent enough comedy with enough heart to satisfy even the greatest skeptic.
The Raging Bull vs. Rocky Balboa. What has this world come to?
Okay, when I think of Hollywood actors who might possibly be credible in the boxing ring today, I’ll admit that Sylvester Stallone still comes to mind. He has managed to maintain himself physically and still presents an imposing figure despite his underimpressive 5’10” height.
By contrast, Robert DeNiro would not be in the top running here. Despite his ‘80’s physique which leant itself perfectly for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta (which won him an Academy Award for Best Actor), today, Deniro looks more like a pie eating contest spectator than a boxer.
Of course, when you can pull reels from Rocky and Raging Bull to show the actors in their younger days as boxers without having to fake produce digital footage, that lends to the credibility of the story.
The backstory is predictable enough. The Bull and Rocky (actually Kid and Razor in this tale) have an ongoing rivalry that dates back to the ‘80’s when these two last fought. In the first fight, Kid managed to beat Razor. In the follow up fight, the results were reversed.
Then Razor hung up his boxing gloves before they could have a third match to break the tie. Now, 30 years later, there’s an opportunity for a rematch.
Enter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart) whose father promoted the original fights. He wants to get them together one more time to film motion capture sequences for a boxing game being produced for console gaming.
Kid (DeNiro) is on board from the outset. Razor (Stallone) not so much. It seems that the rivalry took a personal turn when Kid slept with Razor’s girlfriend Sally (Kim Basinger).
The rivalry, though, will give both men the opportunity to reconnect with the people in their lives who, in some cases, they never even met.
For Razor, he manages to reconnect with the former girlfriend who is recently widowed but never stopped loving the boxer despite the one time betrayal that resulted in a pregnancy and a loss of trust.
For Kid, it’s the opportunity to reconcile with the son he knew he had (Jon Bernthal). Years earlier, he respected Sally’s wish that Kid should stay away from their son. Now, he has an opportunity to reconnect with him and the Grandson he never knew he had.
Razor’s personal trainer (Alan Arkin) manages to steal more than a few laughs as he works hard to get his charge back in shape for the bout of the century. He also manages to shine the light on a few of Razor’s shortcomings that might serve to hurt him in the ring.
Kid is a lot more cocky but is never-the-less in need of a top notch trainer to get him into shape. His son volunteers to help him, which will create an even more stressful dynamic given the relationship his mother had with both fighters.
The laughs come hard and fast in this part comedy, part drama, but the movie’s real charm lies in its integrity and its emotional truth. It doesn’t short sell itself or the audience despite the farfetched plot and circumstances.
This is the type of comedy that I prefer to see. It doesn’t dumb itself down for audiences and even though it does manage to gross out or offend at times, it never does so in mean-spiritedness. And while the final fight may lack punch (rim shot, please), it doesn’t lack heart. And that is what, ultimately, this film is all about.
I give Grudge Match 3-1/2 out of 5 stars.