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.