What Exactly Is A 5.0 Beer Rating?

Discussion in 'BeerAdvocate Talk' started by SierraNevallagash, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    I try to put a lot of thought into my reviews and their corresponding scores. I think I have a decent grasp. A particular BA here likes to poke fun at me for "over-rating" beers, which always surprises me. I know other people who rarely rate below 4.5. My question is...

    What warrants a 5? My highest rated beer is something lile 4.68, and that was a stop-me-in-my-tracks, dear god this is the best "insert style" I've ever had beer. I often peruse reviews, and I'll see these 4.7-5.0 scores, with reviews like, "it's pretty good, not the best, but enjoyable" or, "I've had better, but it's still great", or even people pointing out genuine flaws, while still slapping a 4.9 rating on it. I don't normally equate 4.9 with "pretty good". "Pretty good" to me is like a 3.8. But that's me.

    Are people just handing out world-class scores to protect hype and value? Is anything under a 5 just not amazing to them? To me, a 4.5 is an insanely great beer, and a 5.0 is almost hard to imagine - let alone if I can point out flaws. Are some people afraid to deviate too much from the overall score? Surely that's a thing. I'd love to hear people's perspective on this, and what you think warrants these higher bracket scores.

    It's all so subjective, and there's no right or wrong rating - I just find the idea of all these 5s to be...interesting.
  2. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,029) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    Personally, a 5 is for a beer that I can't see being done any better for it's style. Perhaps equaled, with different features, but I just can't see the particular beer being better.

    For example: my all time favorite beer is Chimay White. I love it. I, personally, think La Fin du Monde is a better example of the style, and LFdM is one of only 2-3 5's I've ever given out. But, set both in front of me, and I'm drinking the Chimay first.
    #2 BBThunderbolt, Feb 19, 2021
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
  3. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (5,672) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
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    Some people will say, "5.0 isn't achievable, because there's no such thing as perfection."

    For me, however, I go with the simple concept of: "I cannot imagine a way this aspect could be improved."

    That's at every level, too; there's no "5.0 beer" that earns 5.0 across the board. I rate every aspect independently. If I find it literally flawless, nothing off, and where I can't imagine it being improved in any way, then it's a 5.0. That doesn't rule out multiple beers reaching 5.0, either.

    I've had one 5.0 beer across the board over more than 3000 reviews, so I think that tack is working for me. :slight_smile:
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  4. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (5,672) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
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    Man, I'm the same. When I point out that my favorite beer isn't necessarily my most perfect beer, some people get very confused and argumentative. But a beer can be a perfect example of a style, but not necessarily what I want to drink every day.
  5. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,029) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    Some things just push our personal buttons in certain ways that can't be topped. But, with some critical thinking, we can see that things we love aren't the best examples. I love a McDonalds QuarterPounder, but there is no way in hell it would ever make a top 100 burgers list. Not even 101.
  6. beergoot

    beergoot Poo-Bah (6,622) Oct 11, 2010 Colorado
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    I may have had a few 5.0 beers rated back in the day...and because they did hit me between the eyes with their style attributes...

    And now I see an overall 5.0 rating as a mythical beast...something that may be out there but I just haven't experienced it yet...

    Perhaps I'm fudging things when I rate beers now, but a truly superior beer rates, at most, a 4.5 or, even more rare, 4.575 in any one category...why not higher???...good question...but then I don't have a good answer to 'why not a higher rating'...

    Perhaps I need to re-evaluate my rating scale, especially for 'Overall'. I guess I can't really articulate what an ultimate 5.0 would be anymore...I've had a few beers recently that seemed (to me) to warrant a 4.75 rating, but why I didn't pull the trigger and just say they were tops in that class or category does mystify me...
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  7. TheIPAHunter

    TheIPAHunter Poo-Bah (2,951) Aug 12, 2007 Pennsylvania
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    Ask John Kimmich.
  8. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,857) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

  9. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,029) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    I have lots of reviews where the individual aspects are all 3.0-3.25, and I give it a 3.5 for overall. Sometimes, the sum is greater than the total of its parts.
  10. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    I like this. I don't think a 5.0 is impossible. I always said that if after years and years, I never managed to find a beer that topped my highest rated ones, maybe I'd go back and 5 it up. I just have to believe that there are certain attributes that can be dialed in, certain flaws that can be smoothed over, and there there's still a beer lurking out there, waiting for me to try and say, "holy shit, this is it!". Don't want to put all my eggs in one basket.

    I do think a 5 here and there is perfect acceptable. It's these strings of 5's with questionable "reviews" (at best) that make me think twice. I don't even acknowledge a 5 without a review. If I encountered a 5, I'd be praising it from the rooftops.
  11. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    100%. Anyone would notice I'm a little quirky with my "overall" box. Sometimes it differs drastically from the other traits. The nose or feel may be off, but it could still be a great overall example of the style, so I tend to be pretty flexible with my overall. @beergoot
  12. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (5,672) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    100%. Straight 5.0s without a review is, at absolute best, rather questionable (and fits with Todd's guide).

    Money right there. No reply in this thread will top that.
  13. elNopalero

    elNopalero Poo-Bah (3,984) Oct 14, 2009 California
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    This thread has prompted me to go and see just how many 5s I’ve rated. ... more than I had expected, and quite a few from when I started out reviewing that I might change if I revisited them today. But here’s the thing—these were all what I thought were 5s at the time. And some (most?) I’d stand by today.

    (I do think Death & Taxes is the epitome of its style, and it’s also a beer I love. Some of the others I rated in 2012, 2013, not so much...)
  14. moodenba

    moodenba Devotee (419) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    I guess I'm old and jaded. My absolute favorite for years years was Blue Point ESB.I only gave it a 4.25, which was actually just under its average rating. Actually I prefer beers that aren't extreme, so maybe my favorites shouldn't get a 5.0. After all I'm reviewing for others, not exclusively for myself.
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  15. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    This seems to be a common theme. I know that when I first started reviewing, I was definitely too generous. And that makes sense - you're naive, new to the world of craft beer, and things seem amazing to you - little do you know just how flawed they might be, or how good they can be. A lot of people i talk yo admit to over-rating when they first started out.

    A 4.5 back then for me would probably be a 4.1 now. I've fixed a lot, but I'm sure we all have some overly generous early reviews.
  16. Jack_14

    Jack_14 Initiate (165) Nov 2, 2019 Italy

    Given that "the archive" is something useful to oneself and to others, in my opinion it is right not to make hasty or forced ratings.
    In addition to being disinterested, of course.
    Without forgetting that in any case there is the possibility of reconsidering the ratings, perhaps drinking again the beer reviewed some time before.
    Me for every beer I rate I write something (sometimes more, sometimes less) about the description of beer in my senses.
    Very rarely in the reviews I refer to my personal tastes, I limit myself to describing what beer gives me.
    Which is what I find useful when I'm looking for information on a beer.
    Under the "FEEL" item, obviously it is the fully subjective one and it deviates from the criteria I use to assign a rating to the other items.
    That said, I also think that the beers that deserve 5.0 are very few, for the value I give to such a rating.
    Therefore... in my opinion, writing two lines below the ratings is definitely always useful in order to make the reader frame the criteria you used.

    Of the few beers that I have so far included in the archive, for now, the highest grade ever is a 4.83 to the Cuvée Armand & Gaston Honing (Assemblage n.57 - 2017/2018 Season)
  17. bret27

    bret27 Poo-Bah (1,785) Mar 10, 2009 California
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    I think everyone has a slightly different take on ratings. That’s part of the fun though. If that wasn’t allowed, only a few beer judge certified people would be allowed to do it.
    The hype evens out over time.
    I’ve never given a 5. Very close, but I adhere to...
    1. Rating to style guidelines
    2. Rating per the ba setup. Amazing beer but only looks 4.75/5? Then it’s not a perfect 5. It should be nearly impossible for all 5’s theoretically
  18. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,029) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    And, each aspect is viewed in a vacuum. The body has nothing to do with the looks. Plenty of folks fixate on taste alone, and give everything else high scores to not bring it down. Too bad, if it's ugly, ding it. If it smells great, but sticks to your palate like glue, ding it.
  19. ZebulonXZogg

    ZebulonXZogg Zealot (569) May 5, 2015 Illinois

    There is no "5.0" beer
    There is no "10" woman.
    In this world there is always room for improvement, except in me of course, but you all knew that...
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  20. zeff80

    zeff80 Poo-Bah (12,932) Feb 6, 2006 Missouri

    I haven't given a 5.0 after 9000+ reviews. I feel like if I ever find a 5.0 the the quest is over. No more need to search.

    So I'll never give a 5.0 so that I don't stop searching.
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  21. defunksta

    defunksta Savant (971) Jan 18, 2019 North Dakota

    I have never rated a beer a 5.0. The highest rating I have given a beer is 4.79. Over a 4.00 is exceptional. Over a 4.25 is top quality beer. Over a 4.50 is unmistakable greatness.

    In my ratings I aim for the "average" beer to be 3.75 and adjust my ratings accordingly. I also rate within a style. For within a style, if a beer is superior it may get above a 4.0. If mediocre, closer to a 3.5.

    I don't know. For me a 3.75 seems to be near average on BeerAdvocate so I've made it my average for beer ratings and it seems to be quite accurate and consistent when comparing reviews to others on the site.
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  22. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,029) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
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    But, the BA scale is 1-5, which makes 3 average. Most beers, while good and enjoyable, are closer to average than above or below it.
  23. maximum12

    maximum12 Poo-Bah (4,861) Jan 21, 2008 Minnesota
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    A 5.0 beer for me is a perfect representation of what I want in my mouth. To date, I have 7 perfect 5.0 beers out of 3,213 reviews, & this from someone whose reviews are frequently below average.

    Looking back, I wouldn't change any of them, though some of them wouldn't have retained that 5.0 over time (in particular Rye Hipster Brunch Stout which was decadently perfect the first time I had it & has wavered from amazing to sub-mediocre in subsequent batches).

    That said, people are going to review how they review & if folks want to indulge in grade inflation it's no skin off my nose.
  24. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    I won't give names, but I was browsing some reviews, purely for my own research, and I came across this. I won't give the user's name or the beer, but it's a BIG beer. Proper whale stuff.

    Overall rating: 4.65
    "poured from a 750mL bottle into a snifter. pours pitch black. no head. no bubbles. smells like bourbon, chocolate and marshmallow fluff. wonderful look and nose on this one. taste has plenty of bourbon and vanilla / marshmallow. almost too much on the vanilla for my taste. finishes with a cake frosting sweetness that while totally artificial is just not my thing. mouthfeel is incredible. super smooth and easy drinking for 15%. this is a step up from (redacted) for me but i’m just not that into straight vanilla in stouts. still, a very good barrel-aged stout."

    I think this is a good example of what confuses me. This sounds like it was overall enjoyable, but nowhere near that world class rating territory. When I see various complaints about the beer, I'd think that would be reflected in the overall score.

    I'd love to hear someone who averages 4.5-5.0 in their ratings give some background on why they're reluctant to reflect these flaws in their scores. It seems these are most often the whaliest of whale beers, which makes me think there's some hesitation in either dinging the overall cumulative beer score, or deviating from the average.
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  25. Junior

    Junior Crusader (749) May 23, 2015 Michigan
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    I’ve rated 502 beers. 32 have been greater than 4.5 (only 4 are greater than 4.75). Each of these beefs were at the time something that I would have made time to make sure that I did not miss a chance to try that beer again. (Some of these has since become more available so I wouldn’t rush out to grab, but those are part of my regular rotation).

    Are there perfect beers? I’m not even sure what that would mean. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many great beers. I enjoy a variety of styles but I tend to rate IPAs and stouts higher, but those are the styles that I drink and enjoy the most. The top is pretty crowded there. There are a few other styles that have cracked my top 10%. Those, I feel are truly best in their class.
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  26. Junior

    Junior Crusader (749) May 23, 2015 Michigan
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    Like nearly everyone else I have ever asked, I am an above average driver.
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  27. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,690) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    No 5s, a few 4.8 plus, but a 5 imo is impossible. There always has to be room for better and not equal.
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  28. sulldaddy

    sulldaddy Poo-Bah (3,866) Apr 6, 2003 Connecticut
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    no 5.0s in my list of reviews. some very very close.
    I think above a 4.65 is pretty mind blowing amazing for me. I do have several above that score.
    I seem to have a lot of reviews over 4.0, but I also dont drink just any beer, Im kind of selective with what I purchase etc. Anything below a 3.25 is a pretty average to sub average experience. Below 3 and I pretty much simply didnt enjoy the beer.

    I also really try to tell the story of the beer and explain the score in my text of the review. Its important for me to be consistent with words and numbers.

    I could find a 5.0, maybe its my next beer, but I just havent gotten there as a total experience yet.
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  29. Minnesota_beer_guy

    Minnesota_beer_guy Aspirant (291) Feb 15, 2014 Minnesota

    Great question and great thread @SierraNevallagash

    Contrary to some of the posts so far saying “there’s no such thing as a 5” I think I should be giving more 5’s. Off the top of my head I can’t think why beers like Zombie Dust, SNPA, Old Rasputin, Westmalle Tripel, Heady Topper, Two Hearted and even Stone IPA couldn’t have an argument for perfect 5’s based on what they are and what they have achieved in the beer world. I maybe drifting into a beer hall of fame territory but the original question made me think why not.
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  30. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (4,452) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
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    I've given out one 5 across 2,146 beer reviews/ratings for Pilsner Urquell Nefiltrovaný, and frankly it may be the only beer that ever gets it. But, it deserved it. Its perfect. I can't imagine anything better.

    For me, thats a 5 ... a beer that I can't imagine being any better in any way, shape, or form.
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  31. Vitacca

    Vitacca Crusader (786) Sep 15, 2010 Alaska
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    I only rate on Untappd because my “reviews” are like a NC-17 movie rating (or worse). I mainly make fun of “new money” but that’s neither here nor there.

    A few weeks ago I checked in a pretty standard local stout. It checked the boxes for what it was and I gave it a 3.5 rating. For me a 3.5 is a decent brew, nothing special and that’s my I’d drink again rating. One of my “friends” made a comment that if it checked all the boxes why didn’t I rate it higher? I simply replied that I don’t review beers like a fuck boi. I think that sums up beer ratings in 2020.
  32. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    You can rate below 4.5 on Untappd?!
  33. Vitacca

    Vitacca Crusader (786) Sep 15, 2010 Alaska
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    It’s allowed if you’re over 40 and been in the game for at least 15 years.
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  34. SierraNevallagash

    SierraNevallagash Meyvn (1,233) Sep 23, 2018 Maine
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    Interesting... This is excluding anyone in the Greater Saint Louis, Decorah, Munster, Chicago, Tampa, or Brussels area, I presume. I don't think they've unlocked that perk yet.
  35. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (4,452) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
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    I think I should preface all future sub-4.0 ratings with "I don't review beers like a fuck boi" :rofl::rofl:
  36. 57md

    57md Poo-Bah (3,079) Aug 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    A perfect 5 beer isn't quite like a unicorn. I believe that there might actually be one out there but, I've never experienced it.

    In 2150 ratings (2135 reviews) I never met a 5. In fact, I only have 8 beers rated at 4.75 or above.

    For me a 3.75 is something that I'd buy again.
    A 4 is very good.
    A 4.25 is Hall of Fame worthy.
    A 4.50 is rarified air.
    And, a 4.75 is Rushmore-level.

    5? - I can't even imagine what it would be like. I suppose that I'll know it when/if I see it.
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  37. 57md

    57md Poo-Bah (3,079) Aug 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

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  38. elNopalero

    elNopalero Poo-Bah (3,984) Oct 14, 2009 California
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    I waited a while after joining BA before I started reviewing, mostly (I think) as a more formal outlet versus the text messages I'd send friends raving or bemoaning the beers I had tried. I had already been introduced to craft some time back, long before I even knew what BA was. Looking back, I think the more pertinent take away isn't just my change in tastes or the expansion of my palate, but the range or opportunities I had to try different things.

    To put another way, in high school I remember thinking the Catcher in the Rye was such a great book. In beer form, at the time I might have ranked it a 5 out of 5, since I hadn't read anything quite like it at the time. Now, who knows? I haven't even revisited it in ages, and I am guessing it wouldn't speak to me the same way today as it did then. But I'm also guessing that someone out there, whether they're reading CITR for the first time or not, will still think it's a 5.

    All that said... just from glancing at my list, and thinking about the beers I've had since then, or revisited, or kept in my rotation, I'm ok with most of my 5s. Is Bigfoot the best barleywine around? No, but for the style I can't think of another barleywine that so widely defines it. Same with Orval, La Fin du Monde, Temptation, PtY, MOAS (droool....), that Xyauuy I had, Schlenkerla's rauchbiers...

    At the same time, much as I loved Zombie Dust (sorry, @Minnesota_beer_guy—but I’m with ya in spirit—and the Two Hearted, even if I didn’t give it a 5) or Hopocalypse, I now have some quibbles to make with that past self of mine. (and don't even ask me about Green Flash's West Coast IPA!)

    Maybe another question is, why not the 5? What if the best beer is in fact the one you’re drinking right now, in the spirit of something a great (beer) philosopher once said?
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  39. jakecattleco

    jakecattleco Poo-Bah (2,472) Sep 3, 2008 California
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    This thread prompted me to take a closer look at my ratings/reviews. I've only given one perfect 5. The first time I had PtY in 2011 while trying to get out of downtown LA. That batch on that day and under those conditions, was perfect for me. Have I had batches of PtY that didn't justify a 5 rating, absolutely. But I stand by my rating for that beer that day. So there's absolutely plenty of confounding subjective variables at play.

    Looking over my stats (over 2700+ beers) I'm pretty satisfied with how my numbers shake out, as I try not to buy bad beer and BA certainly helps me avoid some sub-par purchases.

    5.0 (n=1) is 0.04% for me
    >/= 4.75 (n=17) are 0.6%
    >/= 4.5 (n=180) are 6.6%

    In all those beers, there's only a handful where I have a negative rdev (CBS, SOS, Black Tuesday, Rochefort 10, Nelson Takes Flight, Permanent Funeral, and Bad Boy). So maybe I tend to rate high, or I just make good informed purchases for my preferences. Nevertheless, I think that accurately reflects my craft experiences, where roughly 1 out of every 20 beers is a fantastic highly-memorable experience. TETO
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  40. DIM

    DIM Poo-Bah (2,943) Sep 28, 2006 Pennsylvania

    I don't agree that a 5 is a "perfect" beer, I think of them as masterpieces. Art isn't measured in terms of perfection. Think of movie reviews as an analogy. Most would agree that the Godfather is a 5 star masterpiece. I don't think you can call it perfect though. Remember the scene where Sonny beats up his brother-in-law? It's actually funny how badly some of those punches miss. Plus James Caan just isn't a great actor.