What would happen if the guys from Rocky and Raging Bull were in a film together where they had to fight one another? The answer is Grudge Match, but unfortunately the answer comes many years too late.
Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star as Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen and Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp, two boxers who had a rivalry 30 years ago. They had two fights, each man with a victory to his name. The only trouble is that they never had a third and final fight.
In comes promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) to change all that, offering each men the chance to settle their differences with a grudge match. Reluctant at first, Sharp agrees to the fight, so the two men set about getting into training again for the big fight.
If you go into this film expecting it to meet the high standards of Rocky and Raging Bull, you will be leaving the cinema very disappointed. However, if you go in not expecting much at all, you can certainly have a good time with this.
Yes the plot is absolutely ridiculous but there is something pretty special about the men that once played Rocky Balboa and Jake La Motta stepping into the ring together. I certainly had a smile on my face when the big fight came about.
Both De Niro and Stallone are not afraid of showing themselves up, as the scene where they first meet again after 30 years shows. But, this is an occasion where I can forgive them, especially when De Niro has found himself recently starring in films like Last Vegas, The Family and New Year’s Eve.
There were some moments where I found myself cringing, but then again that was also inevitable. Some of the jokes that Alan Arkin was coming up with as Sharp’s trainer, Louis ‘Lightning’ Conlon, totally fell flat. And, just a reminder to any director out there, romantic comedies have never really been Stallone’s strong point. His scenes with Kim Bassinger as his love interest, Sally Rose, were unbearable at times and had me hoping I could just fast forward. Unfortunately though, I could not.
De Niro gets the more bearable moments of the film. The scenes he shares with Jon Bernthal as his son, B.J., provide the film with some drama and proves that Grudge Match is not just being played for laughs.
One man who is just playing it for laughs, however, is Kevin Hart. Don’t get me wrong. He is funny in places, but when the jokes just get repeated over and over again it gets less and less funny each time. His funniest scene comes in the end credits where he is seen trying to set up another grudge match between real life boxing rivals, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.
Grudge Match is a film that, unlike other boxing films like Rocky and Raging Bull, will be sitting out the fight for major awards, but it is enjoyable to watch and will go straight on to my list of guilty pleasures of 2014.