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GRUDGE MATCH

SYNOPSIS:
A pair of aging boxing rivals - Henry 'Razor' Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen (Robert De Niro) - are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout -- 30 years after their last match.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Old action stars don't fall off the casting list, they just work in coming of aged movies, like RED 1 & 2, The Expendables 1 & 2, Bullet to the Head and Grudge Match. The common element is not just ageing action heroes working the veteran side of the street; five of these films also star Sylvester Stallone, the herd leader who has pumped more iron than the Port Kembla steel works, growing evermore freaky to look at, with bulging veins running through his shoulders and down his arms. Call them rivers of blood gold, since this body building is also wealth building.

There are others in this genre of course, reluctant as the older generation of movie stars are of moving on. And we love 'em all, notably those escapist escapades where the fun and the action are glued together in a robust and inventive fashion.

Grudge Match can't be accused of risk taking originality, a movie derivative, if you like, hoping to acquire a sense of gravitas and meaning by loading up the story with some father and estranged son business, as well as a broken romance that sits at the heart of the grudge. As for the character names, 'Razor' Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen, they are so clumsily contrived for nickname effect that it's embarrassing. The physical mismatch between pumped Stallone and lumpy De Niro is another deflater.

Say no more, but the casting gives these device ballast in a range of fine performances from both the appealing Kim Basinger as Sally Rose, the girl between the two grudgees, the veteran ironic man Alan Arkin as Razor's old trainer Lightning, and Jon Bernthal as the son who comes and goes into his newly met father's life. Kevin Hart is an irritatingly hyper opportunist trying to make a killing out of the match, but most of his shrieking street jive is indecipherable.

As for the grudge match of the title, you'll have to wait 95 minutes for that to start, and you won't be surprised by either the way it's shot or the punching bags the men become.

Not really a boxing movie for boxing aficionados, not like Fighter was with Mickey Rooney a wrestling film, say, but there is a ghastly fascination for these 60 somethings behaving like 30 somethings and looking like weird somethings, each in their own way.

It may have worked better if the filmmakers had the courage of their convictions and given us an old fashioned boxing movie ... for oldies.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's low on laughs and tries much too hard, but the fact that De Niro and Stallone at the ripe old ages of 70 and 67 respectively are back in the ring giving it their best shot brings veteran entertainment value. The problem lies with the shallow, lack-lustre script from TV writers Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman and Doug Ellin, who never manage to develop the characters beyond the superficial.

Peter Segal, who directed Anger Management in 2003, has more anger management to deal with here in the conflict between De Niro and Stallone's characters, who are both smarting from their unfinished boxing business dating back 30 years. Sadly it's all a bit tired and the humour lame, but there are some beefy moments, namely those in the climactic scene in the ring, when the two acting legends leave no doubt that they are giving their all with their sweat, blood and tears.

The ultimate low moment comes when De Niro, wearing boxers, is sprung in the back of his car with a dishevelled blond floosey. Perhaps the writers thought this discovery by De Niro's 8 year old screen grandson would be funny, but it is typical of the skit-type mentality of which the film relies. The humour is milked at every turn, like the scene in which Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry 'Razor' Sharp (Stallone) come face to face again for the first time in three decades in the context of recording a video game, both looking like Buzz Lightyear, dressed awkwardly in lime green hooded jumpsuits fitted with sensors.

There are self-deprecating age-related jokes, fitness jokes and the humour surrounding Alan Arkin's character (he plays Stallone's hard-of-hearing, grumpy dad) falls as flat as the flapjacks that De Niro tucks into alongside his scotch before he begins his training routine. (Arkin at 79, is only 12 years older than Stallone, but let's not split hairs...)

Kim Basinger is a lovely presence as the girl responsible for the rift between the two men and Jon Bernthal is good value as De Niro's biological son B.J. Kevin Hart, who plays the insufferable, incessantly screeching would-be boxing promoter who jabbers away Chris Tucker-style, is especially irritating, bright yellow Porsche convertible not withstanding. Of course all our attention is on De Niro and Stallone and they do what we expect plus a bit more. It is a shame the script is not better, offering these stalwarts a better platform on which to spar.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

GRUDGE MATCH (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, John Bernthal, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Han Soto

PRODUCER: Michael Ewing, Bill Gerber, Mark Steven Johnson, Ravi D. Mehta

DIRECTOR: Peter Segal

SCRIPT: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler

EDITOR: William Kerr

MUSIC: Trevor Rabin

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wynn Thomas

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 30, 2014







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