You can afford to miss Grudge Match if you aren't a fan of its lead stars Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, or a fan of boxing.
There are certain rivalries that will go down in boxing history -- Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson -- and Grudge Match’s director Peter Segal attempts to add the names Henry 'Razor' Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen (Robert De Niro) to the list.
Razor and The Kid go back a long way.
They’ve always been arch enemies, both ex-world champions and have stood toe-to-toe twice, each man walking away with a victory.
But before they could fight a third time, Henry announces his retirement from professional boxing and never explains why, leaving Billy with a bitter grudge that he holds on to for 30 years.
Now, three decades later, they find themselves back in each other’s lives, facing a golden chance to fight the ultimate fight and finally settle who the best boxer is. While Billy is excited about extracting his revenge, Henry refuses to step into the ring. Will the grudge ever be resolved?
When Stallone played the old, washed-out fighter in the sixth installment of the Rocky series, Rocky Balboa, it was beautiful. He was broken, beaten and he rose up from depression and despair to peace. That gave the little people hope. But here, when he attempts to play a similar character, you feel nothing.
Let’s not kid ourselves Mr Segal, Henry Sharp is no Rocky Balboa. He does not have the same kind of struggle or the same fire in him. To prop him up as a great fighter is a lie.
Thankfully, Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen is nothing like De Niro’s Jake LaMotta from Raging Bull and De Niro plays the borderline alcoholic, gluttonous, womanizing Billy believably but without any enjoyment. At times you feel like someone put a gun to De Niro’s head to make him act in something as absurd as Grudge Match and perhaps someone did -- why else would an actor of Robert De Niro’s stature be reduced to this?
While De Niro remains the better actor without a doubt, Stallone has done some incredible action sequences in his long and fruitful career. As a viewer, the only reason I’d buy a ticket for this film would be to watch a well choreographed bout, and that’s where Grudge Match disappoints me the most. Fight scenes were typically filled with slow-mo shots of powerful hooks and blood flying out of the men’s mouths.
Nevertheless, it is not entirely unbearable. If you can survive the first 20 minutes of the film, you will be rewarded with a fair share of laughs even as most of the jokes in the film fall flat.
Grudge Match also features an unrealistically smart-talking kid (was that supposed to be cute?) along with a strangely messed-up sense of masculinity and parenting.
The soundtrack is what really gets this film going. You won't be able to resist singing along to some classics like One More Shot by The Rolling Stones, How You Like Me Now? by The Heavy and Edwin Starr's unforgettable anthem, War.
Things really start looking up for Grudge Match after the interval and even though it begins to build up to something, it turns predictable soon enough.
You can afford to miss this if you aren't a fan of either of the actors or a fan of boxing. As a long-time Stallone fan, I choose to excuse myself from this wreck because I cannot stand to see a performer I admire so much do something like this.
If you must watch it, do it for Alan Arkin, who plays Stallone's trainer, Lightning. He's the only one who seems to have put any kind of effort into it.