Grudge Match

Director: Peter Segal

Starring: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal, LL Cool J

Written by: Rodney Rothman and (also story) Tim Kelleher

Running Time: 113 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 24th January 2014

This must have seem a great idea on paper: Rocky and Raging Bull taking each other on in a boxing movie. A great idea, maybe, in the 80s when they were younger…a whole lot younger. Instead we have a limp comedy drama that really fails to take off.

Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen are life-long rivals. Their fights in the early 80’s are almost legendary, each winning a fight each. Just before the third and deciding fight, Razor retires from boxing after his former girlfriend, Sally Rose, slept with The Kid. Forward to now and there seems to be slight interest in the fighters previous outings. Razor now works at a local factory while The Kid runs a used car lot and a bar where he entertains. The son of the promoter of their last fights, Dante Slate Jr, has an idea to get them back into the ring but the past can’t stay hidden, as Razor’s former love, Sally Rose, appears on the scene and The Kid’s son from his one-night stand, BJ, comes to help his father train.

The idea of having two screen icons in the form of Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone, in a boxing ring at the same time, would have been the biggest screen event of all time when they were playing Jake LaMotta and Rocky Balboa but it hardly raises a fanfare now. Mainly because both stars light has slightly diminished over the years due to some dubious screen decisions.

De Niro’s film choice haven’t been that great since the 90’s while Stallone has to rely on surrounding himself with other former action stars to make a dent on the box office. It also doesn’t help that both men are just this side of 70 (De Niro is 70, while Sly is 67) and the thought of seeing them box doesn’t grab the average multiplex audience. While they do a very credible job with the final fight, the real problems arise before the finale.

The film is supposed to be a comedy, yet the jokes are very thin on the ground. So we get the occasional reference to the star’s past boxing films (Razor going to hit a slab of meat and drinking raw eggs, The Kid’s cabaret act al la Raging Bull) but if you don’t know your movie history, these would mean nothing. There is a neat commentary about mobile phone use as the two fighters meet outside the ring and start scrapping, only for onlookers to all produce a phone to film it.

For a film that is just shy of two hours, it lacks the real meat of a solid comedy and it really drags its feet as it introduces a soap style domestic drama about Razor’s former love, Sally Rose and her son to The Kid.

Thankfully, having Alan Arkin and Kim Basinger on board injects a little life. Arkin has the best lines as Razor’s disgruntled and deaf trainer (think Burgess Meredith’s Mickey from the Rocky films) and he proves once more what a superb supporting actor he is. It’s also great to see Basinger back on our screen, although it does seem she has wandered onto the set of the wrong film, she’s far too classy for this.

As for star of the future Kevin Hart, well an annoying mix of early Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker but without the humour is the only thing I can say. So that leaves De Niro and Stallone. As the stars, they should have years of experience to carry this but Sly looks frankly bored while De Niro, who does a mean workout for a man his age, still cannot bring the magic he once had to the screen.

This is a film that should have given us so much more than it does but it lacks any real big laughs, cannot make up its mind if it is a comedy or a drama and has a really sickening ending that will anger you more than anything. In fact, the only big laugh comes in a scene during the end credits involving two former real life boxing rivals.


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