Following the trend of films focusing on the over-60s comes Grudge Match, which could generously be called Rocky vs. Raging Bull.
Henry ‘Razor’ Sharpe (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (Robert De Niro) are old boxing rivals. They had two epic matches, but before they could have the third rubber match Razor retired from the sport. 30 years on and Razor works at a steel factory, while Billy does comedy stand-up in a bar. The two are brought in to do motion-capture for an upcoming legends of boxing video game and their old rivalry sparks up again. Seeing an opportunity, the son of their previous promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) signs them both to finally settle their differences in the ring.
Grudge Match kicks off with a historical look at the two boxers, which using some CGI effects takes the two men back to their Rocky and Raging Bull pasts. The names may be the different, but there are huge similarities in character. Stallone’s Razor is very much the down-trodden working man underdog, while De Niro’s Billy is the cocksure, foul-mouthed, arrogant talker.
Grudge Match lacks the intensity of more recent films like Warrior, but brings with it some genuine laughs and excellent chemistry between the two leads. The supporting cast led by a fantastic Alan Arkin as a brutally truthful ex-trainer all help with the comedic heavy-lifting, but this is very much a star vehicle for the leads. In a nice moment between the two they discuss how being old doesn’t mean they’re worthless, which is a common theme in these films.
In terms of pacing and structure Grudge Match is as formulaic as it comes, but as with a lot of sports films, this doesn’t matter. All the recognisable strokes are here, even including a heavy-handed relationship subplot designed to increase pathos but that actually just slows down the action and comedy.
A fun enjoyable romp that harks back to previous classic films for both the lead actors, Grudge Match has a broad appeal and despite short-comings in pacing and drama is another worthy addition in the OAP action genre.