Is Robert De Niro so angry that Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture and Raging Bull didn’t that he feels the need to step into the ring with Sylvester Stallone and pummel him? Has De Niro seen Stallone lately? I’m 25-30 years younger and I wouldn’t be crazy enough to climb into a ring with Stallone, even if it is all choreographed (plus, I may have said some mean things about a few of his movies and he strikes me as the kind of guy who would hold a grudge).
Stallone stars as Razor Sharp – a championship boxer who battled fellow Pittsburgh phenom and champion Kid McDonnen (Robert DeNiro) in some of the most legendary fights of the early 1980’s. They each were victorious in one of the two fights, and Kid was devastated and angered beyond belief when Razor mysteriously and without explanation dropped out of the tiebreaking match.
Thirty years later, the two cross paths while filming a video game, and they still hate each other as much as ever, which leads to a massive fight all caught on cell phone video and exploding on YouTube. Smelling an opportunity to make some quick cash, promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), sets up the ultimate grudge match between the two senior citizens, and Razor could use the money, so he reluctantly agrees. Now, Razor and Kid are forced to face their past, mistakes, missed opportunities and mortality.
That makes Grudge Match sound so much deeper than it really is. Maybe that’s how they convinced De Niro to do it (but, he probably was excited to work with his buddy and make a nice penny at the same time). Don’t get me wrong. You will find many many many movies to hate more than Grudge Match, but it isn’t very good either.
Writers Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman try to toss in every melodramatic story line you have ever seen (and you probably saw them on Dallas or Days Of Our Lives). We get the long lost son who appears out of nowhere. We get the love triangle that tore everyone apart and the former flame who regrets a big mistake. We get the possibility that someone could DIE if he fights. It’s all there and then some.
Then, Kelleher and Rothman give us more Rocky jokes and allusions than would be allowed by copyright law if Stallone wasn’t involved. One such joke is cute and funny and self aware. Two is a bit grating. Several is going to the well too often because you can’t come up with something better.
Of course, the two writers also throw in plenty of old man jokes, and leap right into gross out material when those start to run thin.
De Niro and Stallone do the best they can, and you have to admire the effort of supporting players like Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, and Jon Bernthal. Every member of the primary cast finds some way to elevate the material enough to make you stay in your seat (unless you smell fresh popcorn coming from the lobby, then you need to get some of that yummy stuff before it is all gone).
If you got free tickets to see Grudge Match, I could see why you are taking the chance, but if you have the money to spend on a ticket, it costs the same to see something good like American Hustle or Saving Mr. Banks or Inside Llewyn Davis. You could even see Anchorman 2. It’s all about decisions in life, and, just because Stallone and De Niro made their decision to star in this one doesn’t mean you have to watch it (unless Stallone threatens to pummel you).
Grudge Match is rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language