Grudge Match – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Grudge MatchGrudge Match – 3/5 – Movies based on boxing are ones that have a very specific feeling to them.  In a boxing film, they are usually very formulaic; stay along a linear course that leads to the main character ‘succeeding’ for a specific reason in the film.  Every now and then, there will be a boxing film that will add enough fun elements that it will be enjoyable with its typical formula.  Grudge Match is not a film that will amaze on a grand scale, but it will provide a very enjoyable flick on the big screen.

Premise: They fought two of the most epic fights in their prime, but a third match never happen.  30 years later, they are now aging boxers, looking to find worth in their lives again.  Because of circumstance, the fight that all were clamoring for finally happen, as rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight this one final bout.  Both fighter’s go on a journey that will show that, even for their ages, they can still pack a punch.

The film’s main character are two aged fighters, Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (Robert DeNiro).   Both actors do a serviceable job in creating two men that are beyond their prime as fighters, but still clamor for a fight against each other in the ring.  Each fighter (Razor and The Kid) are very grizzled men, both caught up in trying to live their lives, but are drawn to each other because the third match never happens.  On screen, Stallone and DeNiro do a great job in creating a rivalry that feels like a legit rivalry between two boxers.  Both guys hate each other, and whenever they are in the same room, they just go at each other; verbally and physically.  Their banter is invigorating, relevant and humorous.  They never let off the brakes with ‘off the wall’ jabbering and name calling, even if the jokes are repeated multiple times.  The acting depth isn’t strong, and sometimes it borderlines on predictable, but it is heartwarming and feels real regardless of these small criticism. In support of these fighters, you have actors/actress that support the film in both a comedic, emotional and plot driven way.  You have:

Kevin Hart as Dante Slate Jr (the fighter’s promoter)

Alan Arkin as Louis Conlon (Razor’s Trainer)

Jon Bernthal as B.J. (The Kid’s son)

Kim Bassinger as Sally (Razor’s ex-girlfriend)

These actors/actresses do a good job in their roles, portraying believable people that are a part of the fighter’s lives.  All the acting from these four are average at best, as most of the enjoyment comes out of their dialogue more than the character themselves.  You have the typical caricatures within these four, as you have the comedic fool (Kevin Hart) the voice of reason (Alan Arkin) the love interest (Kim Bassinger) and the long lost connection (Jon Bernthal).  Even for these typical aspects of their characters (like the main two) you enjoy watching them on screen as their common aspect grips you and entertains.

As mentioned above, this film is a formulaic film, with an added colorful element to the story.  Like any boxing movie, you still have to have the reason for the main fight to happen. In the films prologue, we are given a quick history lesson of these two fighters.  Both Razor and The Kid were at the top of their game in the 80s, with the most amazing fights of their careers coming against each other.  After splitting the first two fights, all and everyone were clamoring for the inevitable ‘grudge match’.  The third fight never happened because Razor decided to retire from boxing.  After that, both fighters’ went on with their lives; with the idea of a third fight fading into history.  Fast forward 30 years later, and now Dante Slate Jr. comes up with a plan to bring both of them together to get the ‘grudge match’ to actually happen. Through some convenient plot devices that bring the fight to go forward (Razor needing money and the Kid wanting to prove his worth), it get’s schedule.  Once we get past this build-up of the fighters, the second act plays along a linear structure; a buildup of training sequence that lead to the ultimate fight.  For majority of the film, you get a mix of comedic banter, familiar boxing/training elements, and the classic motivational push for both fighters.  Within the general ‘boxing’ theme, you also have some colorful subplots that bubble under the surface.  For Razor, you have the ’emotional’ rekindling of a long lost love, and for The Kid, you have a reconnection with a son he never was a father too.  Along these subplots, you get a parallelism of a redemption angle, where both are trying to prove why they need to do this fight.  In all these storylines and themes, there isn’t anything that will be gripping, but you are still entertained because of the familiarity.  There is a ‘grounded’ mentality through all the comedic hijinx and forced emotional bonding that even when everything is predictable, you still enjoy the film’s humanistic perspective brought to these aging fighter’s and their lives.  Once the film gets into the third act with the big fight, all the threads commence into one singular moment.  The film pumps up all the comedic and emotional tones, bringing color and excitement to a fight that would otherwise be dull and boring.  You root for both men, hoping they can wash away guilt, anger and resentment of past decisions and finally find worth.  Once the film hits the climax, it’s lukewarm and familiar like most boxing film, but the heartwarming touch is welcomed.  The journey of these two aging fighters may be redundant, but it is turns out to be really enjoyable.

The visuals in the film isn’t anything to clamor over, but the aspect of realism is felt throughout the journey the fighter’s go through in the film.  The score is pretty much non-existent, but it is there.

Grudge Match isn’t a film that will garner any strong critical praise, but sometimes a film doesn’t need that to be enjoyable.  Even with its typical formula, the film entertains you with the funny quips and relative grounded aspect of the relationships of the film.  If you’re looking for a film to entertain you at matinee price, this is one to pick.  You will not be disappointed.

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