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.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of pre-Christmas visual treats this week, including the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer, 22 Jump Street, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and more…

A New York Winter’s Tale

A New York Winter’s Tale is a upcoming fantasy starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay. The film is the directorial debut of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who also wrote the screenplay based on Mark Helprin’s novel. A New York Winter’s Tale is out in UK cinemas on 21st February 2014.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Here is the first Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer. After the success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it makes sense that a sequel would follow. It is unclear whether this new film will bridge the gap between Rise and the original Planet of the Apes films, but one thing is clear: Cesar looks angry. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is due for release in July 2014.

22 Jump Street

Warning: this is the red band trailer. The film reboot of 21 Jump Street was something of a surprise success in that it actually worked well as a comedy. In sequel 22 Jump Street undercover cops Jenko and Schmidt go to college. The film is out in UK cinemas on 6th June 2014.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

How To Train Your Dragon was a great animated adventure, so I have high hopes for its sequel. This trailer for How To Train Your Dragon 2 does not reveal much in terms of plot, but it looks fantastic. How To Train Your Dragon 2 is set for release in June 2014.

Blended

What is Blended you ask? Well it is a new comedy that once again teams up Adam Sandler with Drew Barrymore. The thing that is giving me some hope is that it is directed by Frank Coraci, helmer of guilty pleasure The Wedding Singer. Blended is out in the UK on 23rd May 2014.

Grudge Match

Above is a featurette for upcoming movie Grudge Match. The film pits Robert De Niro against Sylvester Stallone when they are offered a chance to re-enter the boxing ring. So basically Raging Bull versus Rocky. Grudge Match is out in UK cinemas on 24th January 2014.

Mr Peabody and Sherman

I want Mr Peabody to adopt me! Frankly what is not to love about this film? A talking dog, who is also the smartest person in the world. Fantastic. Let’s hope Sherman isn’t too annoying. Mr Peabody and Sherman is released in the UK on 7th February 2014.

Film Review: The Fighter

The Fighter is set in 1993, a time when few would have believed Marky Mark’s career would have longevity, let alone that he would deliver award-worthy performances. Nonetheless, Mark Wahlberg’s acting is not even the highlight of The Fighter, a film that boasts great writing and superlative performances.

A low-level boxer dreaming of success, Mickey Ward is always in his brother Dickie Eklund’s shadow. A former boxer with a drug addiction, Dickie thinks he is going to make a comeback. However, it is Mickey’s career that is on the up, and his older brother has a significant part to play…

Based on the true story of Mickey Ward’s rise to success, The Fighter is an incredibly engaging movie. Although it is a story about boxing, the film primarily focuses on the very personal story behind the sportsman. The Fighter is more concerned with relationship dynamics than accounting Mickey’s triumphs. It is this that give the film its heart, and compels the audience to root for Mickey Ward during the matches.

Screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson infuse the narrative with both emotion and comedy. The dialogue is fantastic; it generates a surprising amount of humour. The Fighter is so effective because it easily flits between poignancy and absurdity. A heartfelt conversation between the two brothers can be quickly followed by some humorous interaction between Alice and her daughters, for example.

David O. Russell directs The Fighter with aplomb. The film never really feels like it is building in momentum; it feels like an exploration of the characters’ lives rather than a path to a big climax. The film may have dragged in another director’s hands, but Russell crafts his characters with care and attention. He depicts a multi-faceted group who all have Mickey’s best interests at heart, despite some of their actions.

What is most interesting about the visual style of the film is the use of television-style footage. At the beginning of the film, a camera crew follows Dickie around for a documentary. This is a great introduction to the characters, succinctly exhibiting how each of the brothers are treated. The boxing matches also employ this televisual appearance, which gives these scenes a heightened sense of realism. The fights do look like actual boxing matches; the violence of these bouts is more acute as a result.

Mark Wahlberg is brilliant as Mickey. Wahlberg offers a quiet, composed performance, which contrasts well with Christian Bale’s larger than life Dickie. Bale is fantastic as the drug-addled former boxer, giving one of his best performances to date. Melissa Leo is excellent as Alice Ward, often stealing scenes with her outlandish persona. Perfomances are great all round and the casting is on point, particularly with Amy Adams as Charlene and Alice’s daughters.

Falling somewhere between Raging Bull and Rocky in terms of tone, The Fighter is a very enjoyable film. Highly recommended viewing.