Every time Henry "Razor" Sharp and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen get together, they hit each other in the face.
Maybe that's to be expected. They're old boxers, after all. They were paid to punch people back in the day—and they were never paid so well as when they punched each other. The only loss either of them suffered was when they squared off, and as such their conflicts fused them together in history—like Napoleon and the Russian winter, like Kanye West and Taylor Swift.
But their zeal for knocking each other's lights out goes beyond the rigors of professionalism. These guys hate each other. And we're talking nuclear levels of hate here. If Razor was given the choice of spending an evening with Kid or a reanimated Josef Stalin, he'd brush up on his Russian. If Kid saw Razor in a burning building, he'd start searching for lighter fluid.
It's not like the two were ever close (except when they were clutching at each other, looking for an open punch). But things really got bad when Kid slept with Razor's girlfriend, Sally. After that happened, Razor couldn't even stand to be in the ring with the guy, withdrawing from a titanic third bout that might've vaulted the two boxers into pugilistic immortality. Then he quit the sport and returned to his job at a local steel mill. He never wanted to lace up his gloves again.
But a lot can change in 30 years. Razor's bills are piling up and his job at the mill ain't so secure. And when Dante Slate Jr.—the son of Razor's ne'er-do-well former promoter—shows up at his front door and offers a cool $15K for Razor to participate in a boxing video game based on all those historic fights he had with Kid, he reluctantly accepts. But he has a condition: Kid still can't come anywhere near him.
That's not a memo Kid ever gets. Or maybe he did and decided to make trouble on purpose. In any case, the two of them show up for their new gig at the very same time and, of course, immediately catch each other up with their fists.
Ah, just like old times. And suddenly the Twitterverse is abuzz with talk of a Razor-Kidd rematch 30 years overdue.
Hey, these guys want to beat each other up, right? Why not get paid to do it?
Grudge Match isn't just about two over-the-hill fighters strapping on the gloves for one last shot at glory. It's also about moving past old regrets and finding a better future. For thirty years, Razor has been doing whatever he could to avoid his past. The memories are just too painful. Not only did he turn his back on boxing, but he cut ties with his old girlfriend, Sally. Her betrayal cut too deep. But with the rematch, the past foists itself back on Razor's world, and he realizes that maybe he was a little hasty in turning away from it all. "I let him take from me the two things that matter most," he tells Sally. "You and boxing." As such, he decides to reclaim both his place in boxing history and the only woman he ever loved.
Kid, meanwhile, has been living almost exclusively in the past. He holds court in the boxing-themed bar he owns and still revels in his decades-long vices, drinking and womanizing among them. But in the lead-up to the rematch, he meets his son, B.J.—a boy conceived with Sally during that one-night stand—and then his grandson. So while Kid's road to redemption meanders through all sorts of questionable content, he does grow to understand that there are better ways to live—and more important things to live for.
Along the way, both Kid and Razor develop a grudging respect and even appreciation for each other, culminating in some surprising displays of sportsmanship. It's unlikely they'll ever share Thanksgiving dinner together, but they might send Christmas cards.
Along the way to the climactic bout, we see dabbles of other positive messages too. Dante offers an overblown (but nevertheless true) speech about the dangers of kicking people to the curb just because they hit a certain age. During a promotion for a local casino, Razor mulls over the dangers of gambling. B.J. encourages Kid to eat better. Razor tells people that he doesn't have a television because it's "bad for the brain."
Dante (who's African-American) laments the fact that private school has made his kids long for "white people" things—like a Bar Mitzvah. We hear a dig about a guy being so old he should know what Jesus was like.
Sally's moment of infidelity is a central element. We hear that it was a one-time thing—a reaction to thinking Razor was already cheating. She tells her son that she was "only" with three men in her life (Razor, Kid and her late husband).
But sexual content goes well beyond just this plot point. It's everywhere here—from several jokes about B.J.'s name to Razor's trainer, Lightning, making suggestive moves and motions while Razor talks with Sally on the phone. Often, Kid's 8-year-old grandson, Trey, is dragged into the mix. He hops in an SUV (preparing to drive off with it) where Kid and a much younger woman are having sex. (We see Kid in his boxers and the naked shoulders of the woman.) When people talk about Kid's womanizing, Trey wonders why he's so tired that he has to "sleep with" so many people. When he wonders why people keep talking about BJs, Kid tells him it has something to do with "Butterscotch Jellybeans." Thus, Trey's fascination with the candy becomes a running sex joke.
Dante talks with prostitutes (one of whom is described as a transvestite in the credits). Lightning continually talks about with whom or where or when he or other people might have sex. We hear references to homosexuality, pedophilia, sex toys and naked body parts. Bikini-clad women strut around the boxing ring to announce the rounds.
The Razor/Kid climactic bout is an overlong symphony of punches (including one thrown after the bell), which leaves both fighters looking as if they've been through a paper shredder. Both men are knocked to the canvas several times, and their faces are covered with cuts and bumps. Blood flies from Razor's mouth. The threat of permanent damage to both men is present and acknowledged, with Sally fretting that Kid might seriously injure Razor.
While helping with the video game, both men land punches and knock each other into expensive, equipment. During a publicity stunt, Razor throws a parachuted Kid from an airplane, then dives after him. Both hurt themselves upon landing, one skidding across a table piled with food, the other smashing into a van. We see footage of their old fights.
After a mixed martial artist smacks Razor across the face, Razor knocks the guy out. Kid spars with an ambitious trainer twice, landing a few low blows and eventually leaving the guy on the floor, semiconscious. He knocks other sparring partners out too. Razor and Sally get into a car crash: Sally's forehead bleeds and needs stitches.
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word is at least partially heard once or twice, and it's obviously bleeped three more times. It's hinted at a couple of times too. The s-word is used 35 times, and characters say almost every other swear known to man, including "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "d‑‑n," "h‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑y" and "pr‑‑k." God's name is misused nearly 20 times, 10 of which involve "d‑‑n." Jesus' name is thrice abused.
Drug and Alcohol Content
As mentioned, Kid owns a bar, and he consumes much of his own merchandise; he's often shown drinking Scotch or some other hard liquor. When asked if he's had all of his shots, Kid says yes: "Johnny Walker, Jim Beam …"
Worse, he introduces his grandson to that world. He uses a 12-pack of beer as a car seat and leaves the lad in the care of his bartender for hours at a time while he dances and sneaks off with women. The bartender teaches Trey how to play quarters (a drinking game), and while the kid doesn't actually drink, every time he makes a toss everyone around him does.
Other Negative Elements
A gag revolves around Razor soaking his hands and Dante soaking his feat in a liquid Lightning alternatingly calls horse urine and vinegar. After a workout, Kid throws up in a trash can, "inspiring" others in the gym to do the same. Kid passes gas in his son's face. A reference is made to feces.
The appeal of Grudge Match is predicated on the Hollywood boxing pedigree of its two stars. Sylvester Stallone first rose to fame in his popular 1976 film Rocky, then replayed the character in a host of sequels. Robert De Niro was Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, a film considered by some to be one of the best American movies ever made.
No one will mistake Grudge Match for either flick.
Oh, it has its moments. It can be funny. It can even be, in its own off-color way, poignant. Some of the underlying messages here are quite nice, if a tad predictable in a TV special-movie sort of way.
But Grudge Match isn't about making art as much as it is about providing another payday for its two stars—not unlike, come to think of it, the fictional grudge match it boasts. And for Plugged In's purposes, it's pretty grimy and very coarse. More salacious jokes are thrown around here than fists by the final bell, many of them the lowest of low blows. Bad language lands a series of shots to the gut. And for me, the KO comes in the form of an 8-year-old's innocence serving as an awkward, off-color punch line.