A review of ‘Grudge Match’ – a witty comedy with De Niro and Stallone

By David Luse

The comedy duo Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone isn’t the same witty friendly chemistry as Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. It’s exactly the opposite; witty antagonists throwing smart verbal jabs at each other that has the same effect on the stomach that the aforementioned duo brings.

If you’re as old as the people fighting, bring some Tums in the theater with you and leave your false teeth at home lest you want to hit the back of the head of the person in front of you due to laughing spasms. Who am I kidding, you won’t remember!

Razor Sharp (Stallone) is a simple, but charming and good-natured character who can be likened in personality to the lovable and dunce-like Rocky. He and fierce rival “The Kid” (Robert De Niro) have a hateful relationship that erupts in bar-type brawls whenever they see each other.

The movie goes back and forth between these characters as subplots reveal they are more colorful than what their boxcutter images portray: a retired boxer working in a steel mill who can’t make ends meet, and one relishing in his own success who is disquieted over a tie-breaking rival match that never took place.

The main plot thickens and the mystery builds as we are left to question why Stallone decided to abruptly quit professional boxing; all while recent news stories and a desperate promoter heighten the conflict of a rivalry that has lasted a lifetime: climaxing in a family-friendly, hilarious spectacle that shines like the star on top of your Christmas tree.

This movie makes fun of itself and features outstanding performances all around. The shameless promoter and coach, Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin respectively, have the most knee-slapping moments. The antagonistic boxing crashers (De Niro and Stallone) play their age and aggression up, but it never feels overdone and always releases a quick noise from the throat that would be a laugh if their witty banter was delivered any slower. Jon Bernthol (Shane from The Walking Dead) also deserves a mention for his surprisingly touching performance.

There are also several Rocky references, and if I remembered anything from Raging Bull when I watched it in film class, I’m sure some of those are thrown in as well.

The lady behind me, who was cheering and laughing in my ear and repeating what the actors were saying, definitely loved it; and if you can trust me that this isn’t some Rocky want-a-be trying to take your money — give it a shot and bring a date, or your entire family. Definitely worth it.

Note to Readers: David Luse, Maria Saporta’s son, majored in creative writing from Georgia College & State University. He currently is working in the movie business in Atlanta. He graciously agreed to review “Grudge Match” for SaportaReport. “Grudge Match” opens on Christmas Day.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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