This film feels like Grumpy Old Men in boxing gloves
What says “holiday entertainment” better than two old men in a boxing ring! Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro play old rivals who split wins 30 years ago. Now they are being coaxed out of retirement to fight a deciding grudge match.
The reasons for the fight are many, though none of them really make sense. Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Stallone) is paying the medical bills for his former trainer Louis ‘Lightening’ Conlon (Alan Arkin). Lightening, the crude-mouthed octogenarian, has just been ousted from his care center for talking nasty and hassling the employees. Razor is already behind on his bills. Now he has to find new housing arrangement for his trainer. In the meantime Razor is laid off from his blue-collar job on the docks.
Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (De Niro) has been luckier with his post-boxing career. He owns a little bar and spends a fair amount of time sampling the product. He’s still a womanizer, an egotist and a partier. He also has something to prove after losing to Razor in their last match.
Finally Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart), the man who’s organizing the fight, wants to become a talent agent. Right now he lives in a rundown hotel, but if he can get enough support behind the event, he’s hoping to erase the bad image his father left in the industry and make a name for himself as a boxing promoter.
None of the causes seem sufficient to warrant such a spectacle. And the fact that they could hope to garner an audience—in the era when mixed martial arts is gaining popularity—seems even more ridiculous. Luckily there’s social media. At a chance meeting, the two men begin sparring, and thanks to bystanders with cell phones, their brawl quickly goes viral. Apparently watching a couple of old guys destroy a sound stage is entertaining enough to sell tickets to a rematch.
The boxers are stereotypical stock characters. Razor is the good-hearted underdog whose unemployed buddies from the shipyard are betting their last dollars on him. He takes an old school approach to training that includes drinking raw eggs and a trip to the butcher shop. (He stops just short of running up the stone steps of a museum—all features of another Stallone boxing flick- Rocky.) The Kid is a self-absorbed braggart who tries to buy his way to the best trainer in town. He gets an opportunity to change his tune, yet he’s hesitant to take it. While the script attempts to build sympathy for both characters, it’s not hard to predict the outcome of this movie.
Unfortunately in the interim, the audience is assaulted by the former trainer’s crude verbal commentary along with sexually suggestive and crude utterances from a host of other characters. A car accident and some sports violence result in bloody facial injuries., Still, this is not the kind of hard-hitting pugilism you see in either Rocky or Cinderella Man.
As events unfold, including a draining training schedule and the reappearance of people from the past, one character says he decides to fight because he has had too many regrets in life. He doesn’t want this to be another one. Sadly, spending the time and money to watch Grudge Match may end up on your regret list.