Rugger Review: Grudge Match
Summary: Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), two former boxers, are forced out of retirement for one final bout, thirty years after Sharp hung up his gloves on the eve of their last match; the one that would have decided who was truly the best.
The age-old pub quiz debate has finally been answered. Who would win in a fight between Rocky Balboa and Raging Bull? Somehow though, I don’t think the results of Grudge Match are what people had in mind.
We all thought Stallone, at 67, had hung up his boxing gloves for good, and De Niro at 70, doesn’t exactly seem to be in the kind of shape required for a boxing match.
So director Peter Segal deserves some credit for making it mostly work. Billed as a sporting comedy-drama though lies the main problem with Grudge Match. It’s not sure of what it wants to be.
There are some serious, underlying issues between the two boxers, as well as some rather difficult history for both to deal with (one has just been laid off and can’t afford to provide for himself, the other has an abandoned child come back into his life). There is a lot of baggage floating around.
As for the sporting aspect, despite a few training scenes, there is a long wait for the final bout, which, while handled as realistically as possible, looks far too like Rocky Balboa’s final fight to bring anything new to the table.
The comedy has almost as many misses as hits, but that comes down to your opinion of rising comedian Kevin Hart. For some, he will grate your ears every time on screen, with an off-the-cuff motor-mouth attitude that Vince Vaughan would be proud of. For others, he is the high point of the film, as he was for me, with some great gags.
Alan Arkin does his best Alan Arkin impression, plenty of sarcasm and rude jokes that seem out of place in a 12A. Stallone and De Niro get their fair share of the laughs as well, but the uneven tone between comedy and drama quells the laughs more than it should.
It is difficult to watch two older men share pain and heartache over past transgressions in one scene, but then joke around in the next.
Played as a straightforward drama, this could have been an older generation’s Warrior (2011) but the comedy weakens the dramatic elements and it just isn’t funny enough to be an all out comedy. It has it’s merits, but it’s no heavyweight.
Final Verdict: The cast give it their best and while there are some good gags and thought-provoking emotions about living with no regrets, with such an uneven tone, Grudge Match isn’t the knockout punch (sorry) that it could have been.
Star Rating: 3/5
* Review by Stephen Connolly