Grudge Match - DVD Review

'"Rocky vs. Raging Bull" this ain't'.

Pitting retired boxers played by Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro against each other, Grudge Match quite clearly sets out to answer the question of who would win a match between cinema's two most infamous pugilists: Stallone's iconic fictional fighter Rocky Balboa and De Niro's acclaimed portrayal of real life figure Jake LaMotta. Unfortunately, Peter Segal's film is about thirty years too late.

It's hardly a secret that Stallone and De Niro are no spring chickens any more, a fact made painfully evident throughout Grudge Match. "Rocky vs. Raging Bull" this ain't, a point ironically hammered home firstly through the director's clunky use of old footage from those very films in one of the dodgiest CGI chop-jobs ever seen during the opening sequence, and then through shamelessly throwing in promotional shots of both actors from the '80s whenever he can.

Away from Segal's stubborn refusal to accept his film simply cannot deliver on its pseudo-fantasy match-up premise, Grudge Match continually falls short elsewhere. The script limps through its tired jokes, most of which are based around Stallone and De Niro making idiots of themselves in various ways. Kevin Hart's boxing promoter is essentially an excuse for the comedian to wheel out a string of hackneyed "black guy" schtick. The sole saving grace is Alan Arkin as Henry "Razor" Sharp's (Stallone) aging coach Louie "Lightning" Conlon. Arkin is as watchable as ever, even if he's essentially giving us the same grumpy old geezer routine he mastered in Little Miss Sunshine eight years ago.

Segal attempts to balance out Grudge Match's comedy with sentimental subplots for each of the leads, but unfortunately things don't get any better here. Henry's rekindled relationship with old flame Sally (Kim Basinger) never goes anywhere interesting or original; Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) meanwhile gets a long lost family in the form of son B.J. (Jon Bernthal) and grandson Trey (Camden Gray), which essentially affords De Niro several opportunities to make his character come across as selfish and unlikeable.

Whilst the climactic boxing match between Razor and The Kid actually ends up a relative highlight, at just shy of two hours Grudge Match has seriously outstayed its welcome by the time Stallone and De Niro finally step in the ring - especially with a grand total of three montage sequences during its bloated running time. Grudge Match ultimately fails to pack any sort of satisfying punch; put Segal's film in the ring with the likes of a Rocky or Raging Bull and it'll get knocked flat on its back in the first round every time.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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