Grudge Match pulls all of its punches

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Starring Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone. Rated PG.

After watching Grudge Match, you won’t just be left trying to erase the retina-searing image of Sly Stallone getting a prostate exam. You will also have one burning question: why?

Do Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone really need the paycheque? Do they want to show that they’ve still got it—in the boxing ring, if not the acting realm? Do they not give a damn about preserving the integrity of some of their greatest work?

Some might see this soft, flabby play on Rocky and Raging Bull as nothing less than sacrilege.

Two former boxing rivals are stepping back into the ring when they should be shopping around for orthopedics instead of Everlast gloves. Until now, De Niro’s Billy “The Kid” McDonnen has run a cheesy restaurant-lounge playing on his glory days, while Stallone’s Henry “Razor” Sharp stays low-profile, holding down a blue-collar gig.

Amid the gently amusing, self-deprecating jokes about aging are a few fun references to Rocky, from Stallone’s Razor jogging against a Pennsylvania skyline with his elderly coach following him on a mobility scooter to a moment where he downs raw eggs and proceeds to gag. Endless scenes of De Niro and Stallone swinging fists at each other and expressing confusion at Twitter or YouTube grow tired, though. From their goofy slapstick, the film swings into sentimental stuff about an estranged son and an old love triangle (with Kim Basinger). The final fight is another dramatic shift, complete with spurting blood and heavy right hooks. You have to hand it to them: these geezers can still throw a punch—as they seem so determined to prove.

But it says something about Grudge Match that the two best things about it are not its megastars but Alan Arkin as Razor’s ancient coach (“That’s not sanitary,” he tells Stallone, who’s about to re-enact the famous meat-punching scene) and Kevin Hart as the duo’s beyond-caffeinated event promoter.

As for De Niro and Stallone, they barely build a believable rivalry. Time to throw in the towel.

Comments (7) Add New Comment
A. MacInnis
How many movies in the last decade has Alan Arkin been the best thing in, anyhow? Certainly Argo and Little Miss Sunshine...
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Martin Dunphy
Agreed.
Don't forget "Serpentine!"
(Although that's a little earlier."
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James Blatchford
Glengarry Glen Ross...even with that cast, nobody laid a glove on him.
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Dixon
Glengarry Glen Ross...even with that cast, nobody laid a glove on him.


Take another look at Jack Lemmon's performance
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A. MacInnis
Yeah, hell, Alan Arkin is NOT the best thing in Glengarry Glen Ross, or The In-Laws, either - cos that's gotta be Peter Falk! It's sort of a 21st century phenomenon where he's the only good thing...

Any of youse ever see Little Murders, his ultra-black comedy with Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland? I have very fond memories of it, tho' it's been awhile. Arkin not only directs but plays a stressed-out, paranoid, sleep-deprived detective... pretty fun performance.
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Ron Y
Arkin was not the best thing in The Jerky Boys! Oh my god, I saw the Jerky Boys...that makes me feel like a swizzle-chest
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Martin Dunphy
Can't remember Little Murders, but I have to see it now! Besides that troika of stars (all cooler than cool back then), a who's who of East Coast character actors: Doris Roberts, John Randolph, Vincent Gardenia, and the great Lou Jacobi.
Holy crap!
(I did like Arkin more than Falk in The In-Laws, though. Falk seemed a bit stiffly practised, and Arkin just bounced hilarious and harassed straight-man line after line off him. The writing helped.)
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