Grudge Match pulls all of its punches
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.