Grudge Match (2013) Directed by Peter Segal. With Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal and Kim Basinger.
Inevitably billed as Rocky Balboa Vs Raging Bull, it’s a relief to discover that, in some measure, Peter Segal’s Grudge Match knows exactly how seriously not to take itself. Starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, both of who seem to have a great time trading insults and body blows, the film steadily ambles along, pausing to catch its breath every once in a while.
A little like Stallone’s 2006 comeback, Rocky Balboa, the film sets itself up by bringing old time rivals back in the ring together after 30 years, via technology. Early on, the juxtaposing of social media and technology with the cranky old-timers, works well, especially so in a scene during which the two square off while wearing motion capture suits in a video game recording studio.
While Stallone and De Niro are mostly likeable throughout, Kevin Hart adds fun as their boxing promoter. Hart’s puppy-dog energy is a good match for the guys, to the extent that when he, and an again brilliant Alan Arkin (Stallone’s trainer), are on-screen together, you begin to wish the film was just about them.
Where the film does fall very flat, is when it switches into family drama, soap opera territory. Long lost sons and grandsons, estranged ex-girlfriends, love triangles…etc. Between the introductions of Jon Bernthal and Kim Basinger, who serve merely as dramatic backdrop, the film sags and droops to become more predictable with each passing second.
So, while there is some fun to be had, Grudge Match gets too bogged down trying to be the best of both worlds, with a series of overly worn subplots that seem to add decades to the overall running time. 2.5/5