I finally got around to watching this movie – which was released about a year ago. It’s a movie that seems to exist exclusively because of the pitch in the producer’s office: “What if we have Rocky fight Raging Bull?” I imagine someone said – “They’d never do it.” Imagine their surprise when both parties said yes?
Grudge Match is a quick little movie with a very simple premise. Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen were boxers back in the day. They had two fights, each winning one. The Kid is angry they never had a re-match to determine who was better because Razor basically walked away from his boxing career. He did this partially because The Kid slept with Razor’s girlfriend, and got her pregnant. Razor walked away – content to never see either of them again. Razor’s working at a local steel mill, and taking care of his ailing trainer. Kid is living the high life with several small businesses – and squeezing every last cent out of his fame. However, the son of the promoter who arranged their matches, shows up with an idea – to get both of them to record some motion-capture moves for a new boxing video game. That way fans can get the rematch virtually – even if it won’t happen in real life. While recording some moves, Razor is interrupted by Kid, causing them to brawl a bit – which sparks interest in a rematch. The promoter puts it together, and Razor is forced to deal with all the crap he thought he put behind him.
Directed by Peter Segal (Tommy Boy, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Get Smart), the comedy is quick, and the emotion is also pretty good. I have to say – I think it’s a smart move to make Sly the one who is angry and grumpy and DeNiro the one who pushes the comedy a little more. The movie is not great – but it’s surprisingly entertaining – and mainly because of the cast.
- Sylvester Stallone plays Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp – who is grumpy, old, and worried. He does a good job, and really – he’s best when he gets to be just a little understated. In this movie, he gets to let everyone else around him go big, and he can just quietly react. Again – he still can’t turn his head due to that neck injury a few years back, but it’s fine for this movie.
- Robert DeNiro plays Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen, and he is completely over-the-top ridiculous, but also, pretty good in the small scenes dealing with the sudden reappearance of the son that Sally didn’t want him to have any contact with. DeNiro is a smart actor – and knows his strengths, and carefully keeps the comedy within his range.
- Kevin Hart makes everything just a bit better (his Real Housewives spoof show "Real Husbands of Hollywood" is now streaming on Netflix, please do yourself a favor and watch it) – playing Dante Slate Jr., the son of the promoter the boxers used to work with. He’s basically just playing Kevin Hart – as he always does – but when you’re a fan of Kevin Hart, that works great! Honestly, I could have watched hours of outtakes from between he and Alan Arkin.
- Speaking of which, Alan Arkin plays Razors old trainer, who tries to get Razor back into shape, and is there mostly for comedy relief, but also some touching ‘tough love’ moments. It’s the kind of role that Arkin excels at – so no stretching, but solid work.
- Kim Basinger plays Sally. She plays her with just a touch of sadness. When she cheated on Razor – he never gave her the chance to explain, and she had been carrying that for 30 years. Basinger is really understated here, and that works really well. I haven’t seen her in a while, and thought she was good in this.
- Jon Bernthal returns to the land of the living to play B.J. – Kid and Sally’s son. He basically does a young DeNiro impression, which works really well in this. His storyline is exceptionally predictable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He shows up – introduces himself to Kid as his son – they start to work together – they have a falling out – they reconcile. Unfortunately, Walking Dead ruined him for me, and I will never trust him in anything ever.
- In some small cameo-type fun parts, Anthony Anderson is Mr. Sandpaper Hands, LL Cool J plays a gym owner who does not want to help Kid – and Joey Diaz plays the trainer Kid has until he replaces him.
Overall, the movie is nothing fancy, nothing new, but it’s solid entertainment for just under two hours. It’s funny, and it’s also touching. It’s certainly worth renting, but I’m glad I didn’t pay for it in the theater.
6 out of 10. Gained points for Kevin Hart. Lost points for Kid’s womanizing – ewww.. Gained points for L.L., but lost points for Kid handling him quickly. Gained points for the two boxers visiting a UFC match and really just being confused about the whole thing. Gained points for the fake promos they shoot.
Bonus Video 1: Tommy Boy – from the same director – and one of my favorite comedies.
Bonus Video 2: Oscar – a Sly comedy I love!
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: