It’s an idea that would have been brilliant – twenty years ago. Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone are two boxers with a history, pulled out of retirement to fight one final “grudge match” to settle the score. Personally and professionally. Instead of “Rocky vs. LaMotta” we get “Grumpy Old Men: Hitting Each Other.”
Full disclaimer, and I may be shooting my critical credibility in the foot, but I have never seen Raging Bull and only parts of the Rocky films. Boxing isn’t really my thing I guess. However, it’s my guess – and I say this with just about 100% confidence – that any good feelings you have about these stars previous distinguished works will only serve to magnify the disappointment you will have watching this comedy. Yes, the film with two of cinema’s most famous fighters coming together in one epic match is a comedy.
Go in with low expectations and half of it might be somewhat entertaining at least. Maybe a chuckle here and there if you’re in the right mood. It helps that De Niro as “The Kid”, Alan Arkin as Razor’s (Stallone) trainer “Lightning”, and Kevin Hart as Dante Slate Jr. who is promoting the fight all look like they’re just out there having some fun. They’re playing up the whole thing for a laugh, and so we laugh sometimes – even at the bad, cliched jokes. But then there’s Stallone who alternates wildly between looking like he’s in pain, looking embarrassed to be starring in such schlock, and trying to play the whole thing so straight and serious it’s like watching paint dry on a blackboard and then trying to scrape it off without making anyone uncomfortable from the sound.
Whenever the rest of the cast has almost convinced you that this is a harmless lark that you don’t have to feel too bad laughing at, Stallone comes in all stiff and serious, phoning it in even more than is usual for the action star. Without any real chances to let out his inner Rambo, he’s just awkward.
Ok, so the the weak cookie cutter plot involving something about jealousy, relationships, family, and boxing is worth a few laughs now and then, despite itself, but surely the boxing scenes are decent, right? You wish. The opening scene, supposedly showing the two in their prime might be alright. I wouldn’t know because I was so distracted by the horrible CGI that makes the young Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy look like the epitome of realism. And then the big match we all know is coming could be decent, were it not for it being fought by two old flabby white guys. Stallone looks like he’s in the worst shape of his life – probably intentionally – and De Niro just looks like an elderly fool in the ring, sorry to say.
There are a few memorable “LOL” moments, mostly by Arkin and Hart. The second (yes there are two) credits stinger is great and suggests a sequel/spinoff that will never, ever, get made. (Although this is Hollywood, never say never). Other than that, though, there is really no reason you need to go see this movie. At all.
Mrs. Hamster did not attend this screening.
My rating: Two out of five hats
Grudge Match will likely be quickly knocked out of most of the 2,838 theaters it opens in, December 25