(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)
It’s a monumental task that the makers of Grudge Match have accomplished. With a cast that boasts of both star power and acting caliber, director Peter Segal dishes out one of the most unappetizing and tedious films of the year. Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger with a supporting cast of Kevin Hart, LL Cool J give us very little to care about or root for. The casting of the leads obviously has a precedent in Raging Bull and Rocky movies but there is little here beyond nostalgia to hold our attention.
Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) play boxing veterans now having spent too much time away from boxing to be even good enough to go for a run. They were tied in their match-ups and eternally mumble and rant about the grudge match that never happened. Dante Slate Jr (Kevin Hart) enters the picture willing to use the hype to organize that grudge match 30 years too late in the hope of making some quick bucks. And it works. Only the two boxers are nowhere near decent fitness and share a thread of personal issues.
Stallone plays the role straight. With droopy eyes and the attitude of a man given up on life, he hasn’t got much to do. De Niro gets the more meatier role but little can be said about its likability. There is a scene early in the film when an announcer talks about the pair’s halcyon (in terms of their respective careers) but equally bitter days as De Niro jokes about one of his endorsements and says, “I was a great actor.” Yeah, what happened? Not that he isn’t here but the film is so ridden with cliches and unfunny lines that even Alan Arkin – who is the lifesaver here relatively speaking – seems disinterested in the proceedings.
Grudge Match is unfunny when it tries to be a comedy and a colossal failure when it tries to be romance drama of sorts with a love triangle added for good measure. An utter mockery of the collective talent of this cast.