Grudge Match

  • Directed by Peter Segal
  • December 25, 2013

A pair of boxing rivals come out of retirement for one last match against each other.

This was one of many discount finds at my local Dollar Tree. I heard of the Grudge Match before this but can’t say I had a strong interest in watching it back then. Going through the Rocky films and having just watched Raging Bull (footage of both being in this film) I decided to give this a look.

Surprisingly, this is a rather funny and quite enjoyable movie. There’s plenty of humor to be had in a story about two individuals past their prime trying to not only recapture a little bit of their glory but correct the mistakes of the past. And it is all built around some long simmering animosity.

Sylvester Stallone is Henry “Razor” Sharp and Robert De Niro is his rival Billy “The Kid” McDonnen. The way their characters are done it is as if Rocky Balboa was a real person and his life intersected with Jake LaMotta (who was real). Rocky-I mean ‘Henry’-lives in a lower middle-class area having hit hard times yet is still a man of the people and Billy has a restaurant where he performs a standup routine (among other businesses).

Their rivalry stems from Billy sleeping with Henry’s girlfriend Sally Rose (Kim Bassinger) and getting her pregnant. In order to hurt him back Henry retired from boxing to prevent a rematch after some indecisive bouts. However that retirement has hurt Henry as much if not more than Billy because now Henry is down on his luck having been laid off from his job since he lost all his boxing money. After events at a recording session for a videogame get out of hand, a desire for a rematch by the public snowballs. That there feels lifted from Rocky Balboa since in that a computer program involving a hypothetical match got things started.

Both characters must confront issues with their past and in doing so come out a bit better on the other side. Billy for his part meets the son (Jon Bernthal) he never actually knew. He makes mistakes along the way (some very funny) but realizes what he has lost and tries to make things right. He even communicates that this regret is not new but has been going on for some time. How does he do that? He hands his son a scrapbook that he’s been keeping over the years of all his accomplishments. That says a lot. But ultimately, he attempts to become a bit of a father to his kid and willingly accepts the title of ‘grandfather’ from his grandson.

Henry reconnects with the love of his life Sally. I don’t think they did nearly enough with Sally and Henry. The hatred between our two main characters is driven by her infidelity with Billy, yet the relationship between her and Henry doesn’t get built up nearly as much as I felt it needed. It is a significant element of the story but does not get as much play as it should. Bassinger and Stallone had great chemistry and it’s a bit of a disservice to not only them but the story as well.

Alan Arkin is Henry’s friend and former trainer Louis “Lightning” Conlon and Kevin Hart is wannabe promoter Dante Slate Jr. that pushes the rematch. Conlon is an old man with no filter and Dante is all, well, Kevin Hart in this movie. The two are great together with Conlon saying whatever comes to his mind and Dante often being the one to react. Given some of the things said by Conlon I am curious if the talented Arkin adlibbed his lines. It seemed to come a bit out of left field. Not complaining as it was all funny.

The image of Stallone from the Rocky films and DeNiro’s general tough guy persona are what largely drive the laughs for their characters. The jokes play well into that. They not only fit this film but poke at the actors themselves.

Grudge Match doesn’t take itself too seriously. Just seriously enough to get across the emotional moments but not so seriously that it cannot be goofy or simply have some serious fun. That’s important. It manages to strike the right balance between drama and comedy. And it manages a gentlemanly finale. They both got what they truly wanted and have proven themselves. Perhaps not to the world but to themselves.

It’s a bit of a trend these days to have post credit scenes in a movie and this movie is no different. The first one is okay but the second one with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield is hilarious. It doesn’t really connect to the main story but it’s a bit of a joke about what happened in their last match as well as Mike Tyson’s best known film role.

Grudge Match is funny and witty and just great fun with some interesting characters and just enjoyable from start to finish. Fans of comedy will certainly love this as well as Stallone and DeNiro fans so I recommend this!

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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