Published Dec 23, 2013The biggest problem with the idea of pitting two aging iconic cinematic boxers like Raging Bull's Robert De Niro and Rocky's Sylvester Stallone against each other is that there has to actually be a rest of the movie built around that simple concept. Grudge Match plays as if someone spent the morning jotting down some ideas, churned out a rough draft in the afternoon and by the next day they were already in production. It's a lightweight comedy that lumbers and stumbles gracelessly towards the climactic fight everyone came to see while reeling off an array of cheap jokes and the perfunctory beats of a story.
Thirty years after their storied rivalry in the ring came to an end, "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) are lured back for one more payday by the son of a renowned deceased promoter, Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart). Sharp enlists the services of his old trainer and friend Louis (Alan Arkin) while McDonnen isn't exactly as embraced by his former trainer (LL Cool J) and instead ends up being coached by B.J. (The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal), the illegitimate son he only just found out about.
As it turns out, McDonnen had put a premature halt to their feud years ago by sleeping with Sharp's girlfriend, Sally (Kim Basinger). Sparks re-ignite between Sharp and Sally, McDonnen bonds with his son and adorable grandson, Arkin and Hart slip in the occasional cutting remark, and there are naturally plenty of training montages to go around. The event begins to inexplicably generate interest through viral videos of the pair mangling the national anthem at a monster truck rally and getting in on the action at a UFC event.
The humour is desperate and lazy, often predicated on the obvious fact that the two are old and fat. In a strange way, the derision their characters are subjected to by taking part in the farcical fight and their overriding financial motives begins to become a sad metaphor for the actors agreeing to appear in this stinker of a film. It would perhaps be at least worthwhile if the final showdown were particularly memorable or exciting, but it features some obviously fake punches and two old men enduring haymakers for the enjoyment of what must be an entirely sadistic crowd.
Needless to say, it's more than a little disheartening to see these two legends reduced to this poorly executed and tone-deaf cash grab. While Stallone has not exactly had a bad year with Bullet to the Head and Escape Plan, De Niro has now finished up a 2013 that was actually kicked off with an Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook with staggering string of clunkers that also includes Killing Season, The Big Wedding and The Family.
Consider Grudge Match the turd on top of that ugly cinematic sundae. And just in time for Christmas too. (Warner)