In their prime, Pittsburgh boxers Henry "Razor" Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (Robert De Niro) become rivals after two fights, one in which Kid beats Razor and one in which Razor beats Kid, the only defeats of their careers. Before they have a rematch, Razor announces his retirement without explanation, infuriating Kid and costing them a big payday.
Years later, Razor is low on money and working in a shipyard when he's visited by promoter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart), who wants Razor to provide a motion capture performance for a video game. It was Slate's father whose shady business dealings ended up leaving Razor in dire financial straits. The soft-spoken Razor wants no part of this stunt. Kid, a showoff who runs a bar and a car dealership, is all for it.
Razor begrudgingly accepts $15,000 needed to care for his ailing former trainer Lightning Conlon (Alan Arkin) and pay his overdue bills. He doesn't even own a TV, so when Lightning moves in, the old trainer can't even watch favorite shows of his like Dancing with the Stars.
At the recording studio, Razor is surprised and taunted by Kid, who was also invited by Slate. The two get into a fight and damage the studio before being arrested. Cellphone footage of the fight is uploaded on YouTube and goes viral, giving Slate the idea of organizing a final grudge match between Razor and Kid, which he will promote as "Grudgement Day."
Kid eagerly accepts. Razor is forced to do so as well, not receiving his $15,000 and then learning he has been fired from the shipyard. At the press conference to announce the grudge match, Razor is approached by his ex-girlfriend Sally Rose (Kim Basinger), who cheated on him with Kid during their youth and ended up becoming pregnant. Now widowed, Sally wants to reconnect with Razor, but he is reluctant.
Razor asks old trainer Lightning to get him back in shape. Kid expects gym owner Frankie Brite (LL Cool J) to train him, but Frankie mocks the fight and is of little help. Kid is approached by his estranged biological son, B. J. (Jon Bernthal), against Sally's wishes. The two begin to bond after B. J. gives Kid helpful advice regarding his technique, and is invited to be his trainer.
Lightning convinces Razor to forgive Sally. He also finds out Razor is blind in one eye. A fight could cause permanent damage, so Lightning and Sally both implore Razor to call it off. At first he agrees, enraging Kid, but ultimately Razor explains that he needs to do this, Kid having cost him what he loved most, boxing and Sally.
Kid takes his grandson Trey to celebrate the news that the Grudge Match is sold out. B. J. believes they're going to a movie, but Kid takes the child to a bar, then leaves him on his own while hooking up with a groupie. Trey ends up accidentally starting Kid's car while he's in the backseat having sex. Kid prevents an accident, but he is arrested, and B. J. is infuriated that he endangered the boy. Kid apologizes to B. J. and gives him a scrapbook that he kept of B. J.'s sports career in school, proving he hadn't been uninterested in him throughout the years. B. J. forgives him.
The Grudge Match arrives, televised and packed. Kid gains the upper hand, severely beating Razor by unknowingly exploiting his blind eye. Upon learning of Razor's condition, however, Kid stops focusing on the eye and helps Razor to his feet. Razor turns the fight to his favor, but likewise helps Kid on his feet after nearly knocking him out. The fight ends and the judges decide it on points. Razor is declared the winner by a very close split decision. He celebrates with Sally and Lightning, while a satisfied Kid enjoys the company of B. J. and Trey, who are proud of what he has accomplished.
In a post-credits scene, Razor has a new TV, on which he and Lightning view a performance by Kid on Dancing with the Stars and quickly deduce that he's having sex with his partner. In another, Slate tries to set up another grudge match between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Holyfield refuses several increasingly higher offers to fight Tyson before showing interest when Slate offers Holyfield a role in a fourth Hangover film. Tyson, frustrated by this, approaches Slate angrily before the scene ends.Robert De Niro as Billy "The Kid" McDonnen
Sylvester Stallone as Henry "Razor" Sharp
Kevin Hart as Dante Slate, Jr.
Alan Arkin as Louis "Lightning" Conlon
Kim Basinger as Sally Rose
Jon Bernthal as B. J.
LL Cool J as Frankie Brite
Anthony Anderson as Mr. Sandpaper Hands
Camden Gray as Trey
Jim Lampley, Steve Levy, John Buccigross, Mike Goldberg, Chael Sonnen, Larry Merchant, Roy Jones, Jr., Michael Buffer, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield appear as themselves. Kim Basinger's daughter, Ireland Basinger Baldwin, appears as Young Sally.
Filming commenced in New Orleans, Louisiana, in late 2012 and wrapped in March 2013 while several different establishing shots of Downtown Pittsburgh and the Edgar Thomson Steel Works were shot in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. A trailer was released on September 12, 2013. The climatic fight scene was filmed on location at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Grudge Match received generally negative reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 29% based on 130 reviews with an average rating of 4.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Grudge Match is sporadically funny but meandering, and its strong cast is largely mired in a plot that's overrun with cliches." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 35 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the film "A preposterous, worthless mediocrity. ... Never have I yearned more passionately to climb into my time machine and journey back to before my memory of Raging Bull was needlessly trashed by this incredibly depressing and worthless mediocrity".
Sylvester Stallone was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor for his performance in this film (along with Bullet to the Head and Escape Plan), but he lost to Jaden Smith for After Earth. (It was Stallone's 14th bid for the "prize", a record, which he has "won" four times, also a record.)
Grudge Match grossed only $7 million in its opening weekend, finishing in 11th place at the box office. Made on a $40 million budget, the film made only $45 million worldwide, making it a box office disappointment.