Grudge Match (12A)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/01/2014

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Grudge Match doesn't quite deliver on its Rocky vs Raging Bull premise but it remains watchable thanks to engaging, committed performances and a script that knows how to effectively marshal its multiple clichés.

What's it all about?
Directed by Peter Segal, Grudge Match stars Sylvester Stallone as Henry “Razor” Sharp and Robert De Niro as Billy “The Kid” McDonnen, two aging former boxers whose epic rivalry in the 1980s was cut short after Razor mysteriously walked away from the sport. When promoter Dante (Kevin Hart) persuades both men to take part in modelling for a video game, the pair meet for the first time in 30 years and immediately re-ignite their feud, with a YouTube clip of their ensuing scrap fuelling public interest in seeing them reunite for the deciding rematch (after a victory each) that never took place.

Since Razor has just lost his job in a steelyard and needs money for his old trainer's (Alan Arkin) retirement home, he reluctantly agrees to the fight, which delights bitter car-dealer-slash-bar-owner Billy, since he's been waiting 30 years for revenge. However, things get complicated when it emerges that Razor's reasons for quitting the sport involved Billy sleeping with Razor's then girlfriend Sally (Kim Basinger), leading Billy to the discovery that he now has a 30 year old son (Jon Bernthal as BJ), who a) just happens to be a personal trainer and b) has a young son (Camden Grey as Trey).

The Good
This is actually a lot better than its lazy, poorly photo-shopped poster would lead you to believe, even if it doesn't quite deliver on its Rocky vs Raging Bull premise. For one thing, Stallone and De Niro spark off each other nicely and both deliver engaging, heartfelt and vanity-free performances, while a smartly cast Basinger turns out to have surprisingly effective chemistry with Stallone. There's alsolikeable comic support from both Hart and Arkin (their scenes together are the funniest moments in the film) as well as strong work from Bernthal.

The script is both predictable and cliché-heavy (there's never a moment's doubt where all this is going), but it duly pushes all the right buttons and director Segal manages to maintain a consistent tone that doesn't over-indulge either the old-people-doing-physical-comedy element or the potential for sentimentality. On top of that, the dialogue is fine and there are a handful of nicely pitched references to both Rocky and Raging Bull that work well.

The Bad
It's fair to say that the film is more successful as a straight drama than as a comedy, since it never delivers any really big laughs and a number of its supposedly amusing moments fall flat, most notably a truly awful CGI-enhanced mid-credits sting that should have been consigned to the DVD extras. It also repeats the stuff-ending-up-on-YouTube gag more times than strictly necessary and overcooks the scenes involving Billy and Trey.

Worth seeing?
With expectations suitably lowered, Grudge Match is surprisingly watchable thanks to engaging performances from Stallone and De Niro.

Film Trailer

Grudge Match (12A)
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Content updated: 27/01/2014 18:47

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