Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Film Review: Grudge Match

Look, maybe I'm a sucker. I love a well-done fight movie. I love Rocky, all of them (except V, fuck Rocky V), even the one where he goes to Russia and ends the Cold War. I thought that Rocky Balboa (2006) was a very good movie and a deserving entrant in the franchise when a lot of people hated it.

On the other hand (De Niro's), Raging Bull is quite possibly the greatest bit of American cinema ever, and almost undoubtedly the finest film of the last 35 years. The title sequence gives me chills every time.

Hell, I liked Warrior.

So when I heard about Grudge Match, I didn't know how to feel. Did we really need to dust off what are essentially mimicrys of Rocky Balboa and Jake Lamotta? How much story is left to tell there? At the same time, didn't Rocky Balboa show us that this kind of movie is possible to make? Where do we set expectations for this?

Grudge Match is the story of two boxers who split a pair of enormous fights in the 1980s, only for Stallone's 'Razor' Sharp to walk away from De Niro's Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen, the rematch, and millions of dollars, for reasons he never tries to explain. After a present-day altercation drums up media attention, the son of their late promoter (Kevin Hart) encourages the two to do a rubber match.

Story: 2/5 - It's just ok. The story is fairly predictable, but it's still fun. The relationship between the two fighters is interesting, and it was entertaining to watch them air each other's dirty old laundry over the course of the movie.

Writing: 3/5 - Maybe I bumped my head the night before the movie, but I thought the movie was funny enough. Nobody's going to win an award here, but there's enough emotion to make you care and just enough comedy to make the 113 minute runtime bearable.

Acting: 3/5 - Say what you want about De Niro (and most are appalled that he's still acting), but with his appearances in David O Russell's films, I would hazard to say his last 12 months have been his best work in the last 15 years. He at lease looks like he put on and lost a good deal of weight as part of this role. Sly Stallone is what he is. If anybody can play a run-down former boxer, it's him. I love Alan Arkin, and he's fine as Stallone's old trainer, 'Lightning.' Kevin Hart is just comedic relief, but he does a decent job. I was impressed with Jon Bernthal as Kid's son, BJ, mostly because I hate The Walking Dead. I liked some of the cameos, like Tyson and Holyfield, and Chael Sonnen.

Aesthetics: 2/5 - These guys are too old to be pretend fighting, let's just be honest. It doesn't look good, it doesn't look believable. Stallone did alright in Balboa, but 67 is a lot older than 60. The production values were good - they captured the downtrodden Pittsburgh as well as the glitz of Las Vegas.

Final Score: 50% - Grudge Match currently has a 21% rating on RottenTomatoes, so maybe I'm missing something, but though it ran a bit long for me, it was worth a watch.

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