Pittsburgh boxers Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) shared a fierce rivalry back in the 1980s. Each had scored a victory in two matches, but on the eve of their decisive third bout, Henry suddenly announced his retirement, effectively ending both boxers' careers. Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) makes Billy and Henry an offer they can't refuse: Return to the ring and settle the score once and for all.
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Boxing comedy starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro is extremely hit or miss. It fires off jokes at a rapid clip, hoping for some laughs. When the jokes hit, the film is pretty fun; but when the jokes miss, it's irritating.
"Grudge Match" suffers somewhat from trying to do too much. Aside from the shifting quality of the writing, the numerous attempts at drama involving De Niro's son BJ (Jon Bernthal) often come off as mildly contrived. De Niro's character is not only unsympathetic, he doesn't do much to try and change his ways, reducing him to one dimension. We almost root for him to fail in the climactic bout late in the film.
Stallone fares a bit better, which does carry the movie for a while. He's done similar material before in the "Rocky" films and he breathes easier in this kind of role compared to De Niro. The movie even recycles the plot point from "Rocky II" where Stallone's character has a blind eye. This is good and bad: it provides an interesting element to the fight and story arc, but it's rather uncreative. If it was meant to pay homage, it doesn't feel like it.
Alan Arkin stands out as the highlight of the film. He's a more irreverent version of Mickey from "Rocky," and he routinely had me laughing with his excellent comedic timing and wisecracks. His jabs at Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart) were thoroughly satisfying considering just how much I couldn't stand Dante! (Think Chris Tucker with the annoying dial cranked up to 11.)
But the real draw of "Grudge Match" lies with the on-screen chemistry between De Niro and Stallone. Both are clearly having fun with this material and their conflict over love interest Sally (Kim Basinger) works surprisingly well, too. The boxing cinematography looks good.
Even though it's pretty uneven and doesn't live up to its potential, "Grudge Match" has just enough laughs for a casually good time.
(Parental Advisory: There are TONS of tasteless jokes revolved around sex, sex acts, and bodily functions. I don't recommend you bring your young children to this film at all.)December 17th, 2013 · Details2 Thanks ·
I had heard some bad reviews before going to this movie. Maybe I had lower expectations but I liked this movie. I took it for what it is. If you want to go to a movie and be entertained and have some laughs, I would see this movie.December 28th, 2013 · Details1 Thank ·
Grudge Match is loaded with sly references and in-jokes, as both Stallone and De Niro have played boxers in their prime (the Rocky series, Raging Bull). The film has a likability factor in seeing these two actors together, chewing up the scenery and obviously having fun, with Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, and Jon Bernthal along for the ride as well. Though it’s not a knock-out, the movie may win you over on points... See Full ReviewApril 24th, 2014 · Details
This comedy about retired boxing rivals working to get back into shape in preparation for their long-deferred final showdown amuses intermittently. But its theme of family reconciliation is undercut by the misuse of a child actor's age-appropriate innocence to forward some of the script's frequent sex jokes as well as by dialogue chockablock with foul vocabulary... See Full Review
As events unfold, including a draining training schedule and the reappearance of people from the past, one character says he decides to fight because he has had too many regrets in life. He doesn’t want this to be another one. Sadly, spending the time and money to watch Grudge Match may end up on your regret list... See Full Review
This turns out to be a better movie than I ever thought possible, especially for fans of these two long-time, revered actors. Alan Arkin, as per usual, steals every scene he’s in (I love that guy). And how this “rumble in the jungle” or maybe more appropriately, this “nightmare in long-term nursing care” concludes has the nice touch you’re hoping for, but not expecting... See Full Review