Directed by: Peter Segal
Starring: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Bassinger, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal, LL Cool J, Alan Arkin
Rated: PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language
As the baby boomers age, both indie movies and Hollywood studios have started paying attention, creating out more projects about older characters, often with plots directly about aging. We’ve gotten “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,’ “It’s Complicated,” “Last Vegas,” and many more over the last few years, and “Grudge Match” follows the same trend. Its chief difference is that its two main characters are both boxers in their seventies, with a very old conflict between them.
Sylvester Stallone has been refusing to age for some years now – witness his action appearances in the “Expendables” movies, for example — but it’s hard to ignore that the man is over seventy. All the Hollywood tricks in the makeup box and plastic surgeon’s domain can only do so much (sometimes they even make things worse by looking weird). It’s nice to see him in a role that directly confronts how old he is. Henry “Razor” Sharp is a man beaten down by life, and Stallone brings that across perfectly.
Robert De Niro, on the other hand, seems to have decided he’s only going to do movies that look like fun – with the notable exception of “Killer Elite,” he’s looked like he’s having a blast in pretty much every film he’s made in the last five or so years. “Grudge Match” is in the same vein – De Niro plays Billy “The Kid” McDonnen with as much joy and good humor that it’s hard not to like the guy even when he’s being a real jerk. Plus, he’s actually letting himself look his age, which is nice in spite of the fact that it makes Stallone’s battle against the flow of time more obvious.
It’s refreshing to see two men in their seventies actually play men in their seventies (Stallone’s character in the “Expendables” movies can’t be anywhere near that age, for example) – and then we meet Sally (Kim Basinger), a woman who actually looks like she might be almost as old as the guys are. Women in Hollywood are usually relegated to the scrap heap once they’re past forty, but the movies-for-boomers trend is giving more of them work they can actually sink their teeth into, and it’s awesome.
Not that “Grudge Match” is a particularly challenging or deep flick – it’s more of a “sports comedy with a heart” type film. It’s a solid B-movie, with plenty of laughs and even the occasional skewering of Gen Xers’ ideas of what the Boomers are like.
It’s a fun film, and cleverly uses footage from the boxing film both its stars made in their early years on the “retrospective” TV specials about them we see in the movie. It’s not a great film (Stallone’s almost completely flat affect only handles so much expressiveness), but it’s a fun one. De Niro makes almost any movie he’s in worth watching, and this is no exception.