While it never sounded like a great idea for a film, Grudge Match can’t be faulted for not having a decent hook. With Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro starring as a couple of elderly boxers hell-bent on fighting each other one last time, the film enables the two screen veterans a chance to revisit legendary roles from their past while winking at the audience. Unfortunately, what the audience actually gets is a movie that never decides what it wants to be.
Stallone stars as Henry “Razor” Sharp, a former boxer now living out his twilight years as a factory worker. While his old rival Billy “The Kid” McDonnen has been itching for a third and final bout between the two for 30 years, Sharp has resisted the rematch. After he loses his job, however, he changes his mind. With Sharp’s old trainer (Alan Arkin) and McDonnen’s son (Jon Bernthal) in their respective corners, the fighters begin the long journey toward recapturing their fighting spirit.
Director Peter Segal (50 First Dates) never finds a reliable tone. At times the film appears to be a long-form commercial for Target and the new Xbox One, with wacky brawls between the two stars wedged in between the products. At other times, Grudge Match is completely earnest, with Stallone appearing to be under the delusion that the film is a serious work of art. It only truly comes alive when Bernthal or Kim Basinger, as a former flame of both fighters, appears. If nothing else, Grudge Match reminds us just how underrated an actress Basinger is, as she tries valiantly to rise above the material.