Grudge Match

Grudge Match

2013, PG-13, 113 min. Directed by Peter Segal. Starring Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 20, 2013

This is a strange, unfunny, and unmoving boxing riff that simultaneously apes the hoary templates of Thirties and Forties fisticuffs films, nails cliches, and telegraphs its eventual outcome at every opportunity. A remarkably uninspired movie overall, Grudge Match is pure pablum melodrama all the way down to the final count. Two veteran actors playing two aging warhorses, both nursing the 30-year-old titular grudge, are brought together to finally vie for the TKO, and the results are deeply dispiriting. You’re probably wondering: “Is it as awful as Clint Eastwood’s 2008 codger drama Gran Torino?” Well, yes, Virginia, and here’s blood in your eye.

Peculiarly timed to a holiday release, I’m at a loss as to what inexplicable niche demographic Grudge Match is going for. It’s clearly not capitalizing on the success of geezer bloodbaths such as The Expendables franchise, and it’s a distant cry from blood-and-thunder classics like Robert Rossen’s Body and Soul and Michael Curtiz’s Kid Galahad. Instead, the pitch seems to have been more along the lines of “Raging Bull meets Rocky, but they’re totally old, out-of-it dudes with family, alcohol, and cash-flow issues.” It probably made sense on paper, but on the screen it merely conjures the ghosts of the once whippet-fit De Niro and the ever abdominal Stallone. Pathos is ladled on with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the cranium, and Tim Kelleher’s script is as painfully punch-drunk as they come.

The vastly superior Grumpy Old Men (with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) mined relatively similar emotional and aging issues with infinitely more aplomb, wit, and wisdom. Grudge Match merely made me want to watch De Niro’s Scorsesean rage (and spittle) fly once more in Raging Bull, or for that matter, Stallone’s underdog Rocky (a man with very few options) holler out for his true love Adrian. Grudge Match yells a lot and maniacally yanks at the heartstrings like a buzzard ripping out soft tissue, but even the in-ring battle choreography is abysmal. It’s all pretty depressing, to be truthful, and even Basinger, as Stallone’s long-ago love interest, is wooden, inert, and looks like she’s mentally counting to 10 in every scene, waiting for the whole mess to be over. (Opens Wednesday, December 25.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Peter Segal Films
Second Act
Lean In meets The Secret of My Success in workplace rom-com

Marc Savlov, Jan. 4, 2019

Get Smart
A giggly summer movie, Get Smart is a well-cast chip off the old block, although the toothless action sequences detract from the comedy.

Marjorie Baumgarten, June 20, 2008

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


Grudge Match, Peter Segal, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle