"What?! We BOTH couldn't play Italian boxers, Sly – the public would never believe that despite the rest of this movie's premise!" Henry "Razor" Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) stands with his trainer Louis "Lightning" Conlon (Alan Arkin) opposite of his opponent, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and his son/trainer B.J. (Jon Bernthal) while promoter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart) waits for his fighters to walk to the ring in a scene from GRUDGE MATCHCredit: Ben Rothstein © 2013 Warner Bros. Pictures. All Rights Reserved. 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal, Kevin Hart, Kim Basinger, Frederick Douglas Plunkett, Jr., LL Cool J, Jim Lampley, Roy Jones, Jr., Larry Merchant and Joey "CoCo" Diaz

WRITER(S): Tim Kelleher (story); Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman (screenplay)

DIRECTOR(S): Peter Segal

60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS (OR AS CLOSE TO IT AS ONE CAN TRY TO MAKE): Grudge Match stars Robert De Niro as Billy "The Kid" McDonnen and Sylvester Stallone as Henry "Razor" Sharp, two former boxers with a lot in common. They're both Pittsburgh natives, they're both former light heavyweight champions ... And neither one can claim supremacy in their rivalry since each holds one victory over the other with no third fight to settle the score. You see, Razor retired unexpectedly right before the duo's third scheduled fight for reasons he's never made public. They've both moved on so it seems – Razor working at a factory while Kid has gone on to own a successful Chevrolet dealership – but the general public has always wondered who would be the better man once and for all.

Enter a man desperate to follow in the footsteps of his father/wannabe promoter, Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart).

More hope and dreams than he is reality and credible, Slate has a deal with a video game company that wants both Razor and Kid to come in and do motion capture work so they can be featured in the final product. But while Dante tries to schedule the two men at separate times, Kid crashes Razor's recording session – and the duo trash the studio as a result. The clip of the two seniors is a hit online after going viral, leading Slate to seize an opportunity to make the third and final fight finally happen.

While the fight is slow to capture the attention of the general public, it does catch the attention of three significant people: Razor's old trainer Louis "Lightning" Conlon (Alan Arkin), B.J. (Jon Bernthal), a.k.a the son Kid – catch that wordplay there? – never knew and Sally (Kim Basinger), Razor's old flame.

With the stakes set to finally go down once and for all, it seems everyone – including local boxing training Frankie Brite (LL Cool J) and to Kid's grandson Walter (Frederick Douglas Plunkett, Jr.) – has a stake in the matter.

Winner take all.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: Stallone fans who enjoy the occasions when he is more brain than brawn, Rocky fans, De Niro fans, Basinger fans, Kevin Hart fans

WHO WON'T LIKE THIS FILM?: People who are not fans of boxing and/or sports movies, people who find the premise too ludicrous from the outset, people who find the comedy forced and the drama uninspired 

BOTTOM LINE – IS IT GOOD, GREAT, BAD OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? It's good for a film that relies on playing to the strengths of its cast, who in turn make the most of its rather ridiculous premise.

WHAT'S GOOD (OR BAD) ABOUT IT?: The second movie where Stallone's character ends up taking a fight past his prime after being featured in a video game (Rocky Balboa is the other – remember that movie?), Grudge Match is entertaining thanks to the committed performances of its cast, Stallone especially, and the serious nature to which director Peter Segal conducts the business of a film with an outrageous premise. While Stallone's action hero grunts of yesteryear were common fodder for many a comedian, his strong, subtle performance here shows there is brain behind the brawn and that he knows how to exhibit emotion when brute force alone wont' do the trick.

Whereas Stallone, Basinger and Bernthal provide an emotional center and dare I say sensitivity to the story, Arkin, De Niro and young Plunkett, Jr. provide a comical balance. The one-two punch (sorry!) delivers an entertaining affair, giving the film a starting point from which to work and not lose focus. One has to give credit to Stallone and De Niro for never venturing too far in either direction and for fully playing embracing the boxing regiment to make their fisticuffs not only plausible, but engaging. Given the current state of boxing as a whole, their fake fight is certainly better than a lot of real ones, so neither embarrasses their self on screen.

Hart fans will get exactly what they want out of his performance, which will serve him well in Hollywood's longstanding quest to find the next Eddie Murphy. Funny without forcing his punchlines, Hart hits his beats well as does Arkin, who never misses one when the spotlight is on him. Bernthal likewise adds yet another solid acting credit to his growing reel showing there is much more talent than he was able to exhibit in his short but memorable time on The Walking Dead.

For those looking for a simple, entertaining film this holiday season, this is one film that, while not a knockout, will definitely keeps audiences from holding a grudge against it.



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