Film Review: Grudge Match

Grudge Match

Like the protagonists in the film, Grudge Match is a bit out of shape. However it does entertain, and offers a surprising candour.

Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen had an intense rivalry as professional boxers. Thirty years later, a boxing promoter attempts to coax them out of retirement for one final bout…

Grudge Match is set up as Rocky versus Raging Bull in all but name, as the footage at the beginning of the film will attest to. The start of Grudge Match is a bit shaky, but the film settles into a more comfortable flow.

Peter Segal’s film plays the ageing fighter premise for laughs. These can be hit and miss; many of the jokes are based around the fact that the protagonists are old, but only some of these hit the mark.

Grudge Match has a more serious slant as well. The rift between the two boxers revolves around a woman; Sally. This and the tangent with her son BJ, gives the central characters depth and motivation. The narrative is somewhat predicable, with some inevitable turns.

Where Grudge Match excels is in its build up to the fight. There is a surprising realism in how the attitude toward the event changes. There is no doubt that a match between two long-retired competitors would lack mass appeal. It is the viral videos and subsequent appearances that gradually build the fight into something of an event. Similarly, it seems believable that ‘The Kid’ would use his showboating to turn a profit.

Sylvester Stallone plays ‘Razor’ in a subdued fashion, the antithesis to Robert De Niro’s larger-than-life showman. Kim Basinger is well cast as Sally, whilst Kevin Hart is suited to the wisecracking facilitator role. It is Alan Arkin who shines whoever as the elderly boxing coach.

Grudge Match is by no means a classic, but it is certainly a watchable film.

Film Review: Argo

Argo is a fantastically well executed thriller from director and star Ben Affleck. The film is a masterclass in gripping filmmaking.

When protesters storm the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979, six workers are able to escape amidst the chaos. They take refuge in the Canadian Ambassador’s house, hoping for to remain undetected. CIA agent and exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez concocts an usual plan to rescue them…

Based on a real declassified case, Argo is certainly a case of truth being stranger than fiction. The idea used to attempt to rescue the embassy workers seems absurd, but the film paints a clear picture of why alternatives were not viable.

Ben Affleck’s direction is superb; he excels in setting the mood and pace. Tension grows gradually, and swells to a scintillating finale. The climax is extremely tense, and a great pay off for a film that maintains the attention throughout. Argo gets the balance right between giving motivation to the characters and keeping the focus on the mission.

Production design in Argo is excellent. There seems to be a genuine attention to detail to ensure everything is historically and geographically accurate. Casting is also flawless; the end credits indicate the resemblance of the cast to the real figures. Performances are strong throughout, particularly Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and lead Ben Affleck.

Ben Affleck appears to be going from strength to strength, as testified by this third directorial feature. If his behind-the-camera career continues on this incline, he may be entirely absolved of past on-screen discretions. Argo is must-see viewing.

Argo is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2012.