“two grizzly old Hollywood farts attempting to roll back the years & re-capture some of their former glory, whilst re-prising the same sub-standard roles that have grown rather tedious over the last decade.”
Grudge Match Review
By Ryan Casey
Grudge Match (2014)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, John Bernthal, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin
Director(s): Peter Segal
Screenwriter(s): Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman
Running Time: 113 mins
Eight years on from the closure of Rocky Balboa and over Thirty years since Jake La Motta’s Raging Bull ran out to pasture, it would seem wise to assume that Sylvester Stallone (67) and Robert De Niro (70) had finally hung up their gloves in the arena of Boxing screen adaptations… Denied. They both struggle down the aisle once again to have a geriatric jostle in the boxing comedy ‘Balboa VS La Motta’… Sorry I mean… ‘Grudge Match’!
Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Stallone) and his arch rival Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (De Niro) have an altercation whilst laying down some moves for a video game. This leads to them being offered the chance to battle it out in the ring, 30 years on from their last professional bout.
To cut to the chase, I was prepared to thoroughly despise ‘Grudge Match’. It seemed such a formulaic and ridiculous idea for a movie having two grizzly old Hollywood farts attempt to roll back the years & re-capture some of their former glory, whilst reprising the same sub-standard roles that have grown rather tedious over the last decade. In many ways that’s exactly what it is however, I couldn’t help but reluctantly enjoy the movie.
Initially ‘Grudge Match’ certainly felt like it was meeting my low expectations, with the genesis of the movie being delivered by a weak script that comes across as lazy, like a script which is almost embarrassed about what it is offering the audience.
However it certainly grows on you through its use of genuinely touching character driven set pieces, for example those between McDonnen and his estranged son B.J. (John Bernthal) which whilst profiling both as fine actors, serve in evolving McDonnen’s character from being a brash, bitter, unlikeable old git to that of a mis-understood, somewhat tragic, old fool, this helps generate empathy and move the plot away from being a Good (Sharp) vs Evil (McDonnen) showdown which in turn fits with the casual comedic nature of the movie.
In a slightly obvious side-note, Razor Sharp’s character can be interpreted as a straight homage of Rocky Balboa, in fact given the number of nostalgic connotations towards the Italian Stallion you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching Rocky 7. At first this is irritating but as the movie progresses it actually serves to be quite amusing… in a slightly ridiculous sense.
The dialogue in much of movie almost feels improvised and results in a somewhat Immature playground back & forth comedy style, for me this works well (in the most part) , mainly due to good comedic report and on-screen chemistry between the majority of the cast.
They did as well as I suppose was possible with the climax of the film which culminates in a boxing bout which reassembles less a Hollywood Blockbuster more a Bournemouth Hip Buckler, with two old men scrapping over who gets the sponge bath of Joyce when they get back to the care home.
To my surprise, I didn’t dislike this film. To call it charming, heart-wrenching or an emotional roller coaster would be an overstatement. Like the two stars of ‘Grudge Match’ the movie feels like a bit of a Grandad, the plot is loose the story meanders forwards at a lazy pace, however it is what it is, mild entertainment that will raise a few rye smiles along the way. No means a classic comedy, but I doubt that’s what it set out to be…