A film called “Grudge Match” starring Stallone and De Niro sounds like it would be dark, gritty, bloody, violent action film. The sucker punch is that it’s actually a comedy with more emphasis on love and family. As an elderly comedic duo, Sylvester Stallone as Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Robert De Niro as Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen are a good match. Stallone surprisingly has good comedic timing, when you can understand him, and De Niro is in top fighting form.
The film takes on a predictable run of two retired boxing rivals with nothing to lose redeeming their reputation with a final televised fight. There are a few surprises when Billy ‘The Kid’ finds out he has a grown son and a former flame played by Kim Basinger reappears, but this simply adds to the course of the plot without adding much tension.
Jokes are jabbed fast as a prize-fighter throughout the film, only to lag behind saccharine moments backed by an extremely cheesy soundtrack. The in-joke references to Stallone’s Rocky films provide much-needed satire and there are there are truly funny one-liners throughout.
Supporting performances significantly add to the humour of the film, especially Alan Arkin in his sarcastic element as Henry’s mischievous trainer and father-figure. Jon Bernthal as the grown son adds heart to the film while Kim Basinger’s character feels tacked on as a plot device, but she does her best with a two-dimensional character. The show is almost stolen by the manic and hilarious Kevin Hart playing an enterprising event manager. Keep watching the after the credits; his final scene is the best one of the film with perfect cameos from two infamous boxing legends.
For a film about boxing, it has very little actual fighting. However, the titular “grudge match” is done realistically with the right amount of blood and bodily fluids. Stallone and De Niro give extremely realistic fighting performances, so much so that it’s hard to watch these ageing performers hurt each other. At the sound of the bell, it’s just a little bit too predictable and suffers from being uneven in its comedic tone.
The bottom line:
If it left out the sugary moments, it would have been a solid comedic romp about former rivals finding pride and peace through punching the geriatric juice out of each other.