Jerry Glick reporting: I went to see the latest Sylvester Stallone, Robert Di Niro vehicle with very little expectation of seeing something that I would like. Well I was happily wrong. “Grudge Match” turned out to be a delightful story about two ex-pugs who split two fights during there careers and never fought a third, and deciding fight.
As it turns out, the gruff Billy "The Kid" McDonnen played by Di Niro was married to the woman “Sally” played by the lovely Kim Basinger, who also had a relationship with Stallone’s character, Henry “Razor” Sharp. Enter an exuberant promoter, Dante Slate Jr., played by the equally exuberant Kevin Hart who practically stole the show, and suddenly a rubber match is the most anticipated event in America some thirty years after they retired from boxing. Now in their 60’s (actually Di Niro is 72, and Stallone is 67), they begin to train for what has become the most hyped of their fights, the rubber match between two old fighters who never did like each other to begin with.
As you might have assumed, Stallone’s character, Sharp, is in love with Di Niro’s McDonnen’s character’s ex-wife Sally (Basinger) whom he deserted many years ago leaving her with a young son, BJ, played with great sensitivity by Jon Bernthal, many years before. Now an adult, BJ re-enters McDonnen’s life with less than fond memories of the man who fathered him.
Alan Arkin is just fine as the typically gruff, veteran trainer who rejoins his old charge to prepare him for McDonnen.
While it was a sort of funny geriatric Rocky (or Raging Bull) it all came together. The characters and the actors who played them never stopped making yo,u laugh, cry, and cheer, all at the same time.
The best line of the movie came when Di Niro’s McDonnen character meets his portly trainer, “You can’t be my trainer, maybe I believe you ate my trainer?” snaps the ever wise cracking ex-champion boxer with a sneer.
If you want to laugh at major stars who put together a fine boxing flick with heart and soul, go see Grudge Match. Bring your hanky, you may need it when you laugh, and maybe when you cry. It’s not Gone With the Wind, but it is a fun film.
Grudge Match was ably directed by Peter Segal, a director and producer, of 50 First Dates (2004), Get Smart (2008), and Anger Management (2003) fame.