What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Grudge Match is a boxing comedy starring two actors legendary for their on-screen boxers: Robert De Niro (Raging Bull) and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky). As one would expect from a boxing film starring older actors, there are a ton of age jokes as well as fights in and out of the ring (the two men are shown bloody and bruised by the end of the fight). There are a lot of references to weight, age, race, height, and sex (one character's name is B.J., which leads to a lengthy discussion of how much men like to "get" his name). One character is a borderline alcoholic, and the other can't let go of old hurts, but audiences will definitely cheer as the two epic actors get back in the ring.
What's the story?
In the early '80s, two professional Pittsburgh boxers and consummate rivals dominated the sport: Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Sylvester Stallone). They both had undefeated careers, except for one loss each -- to the other. But after Sharp won their second head-to-head light heavyweight championship, he retired, leaving McDonnen waiting in vain for another shot to beat him. Thirty years later, a young boxing promoter, Dante Slate (Kevin Hart), hires both men to participate in a boxing video game, but when the men end up in a brawl that goes viral on YouTube, Dante has a brilliant idea: to host a GRUDGE MATCH between the two long-retired fighters. Razor reluctantly agrees and trains with his aging manager "Lightning" (Alan Arkin). Out of shape Billy, meanwhile, has trouble finding someone to train him, until his long-lost son B.J. (Jon Bernthal), an assistant football coach, introduces himself.
Is it any good?
There is a sort of movie magic in seeing two screen legends go toe to toe, like when De Niro and Pacino played a master thief and dogged detective in Heat. But of course, Sylvester is no Pacino, and this is no Heat. Neither is it Rocky (despite the various references) or Raging Bull starring sexagenarians. As it is, neither man is particularly likable, and elements of the film (two different men drive rusted, beat-up cars in an age when cars are rust-proof; a man allows his newly met grandson to stay in the care of a bartender) are rather ridiculous.
But if you can keep in good spirits from the novelty of seeing De Niro and Stallone play 60-something boxing rivals, you will laugh a few times, particularly at the supporting characters played by Hart and Arkin, who are both genuinely funny actors. The boxing scenes are pretty uninspired, but given the actors' ages, that might have been for the best. Kim Basinger, still lovely at 60, co-stars as Razor's ex-girlfriend Sally, and Bernthal -- best known for his stint on The Walking Dead -- does his best as Sally and Billy's adult son. Are you going to sing "Eye of the Tiger" afterward? No. But if you stick it out through the credits, you will get a kick out of a cameo featuring real boxing rivals.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the popularity of boxing movies. Why are they such a significant percentage of sports movies? What are some of your favorites?
How does seeing Stallone and De Niro duke it out challenge your ideas about the "elderly" and how they should act?
Does violence in the context of boxing or MMA or other sports have less of an impact than other forms of violence? Why?