Written by / 12/28/2013 / No comments / , , , , , , ,

STALLONE VS DE NIRO IN GRUDGE MATCH

year: 2013 rating: **1/2
There are probably more people curious about seeing ROCKY and RAGING BULL square off than a COP LAND reunion… Either way, with Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta in the same movie, they might want something edgy, dramatic and uplifting. Well good luck with that...

Sylvester Stallone as Henry “Razor” Sharp and Robert De Niro as Billy “The Kid” McDonnen are two retired boxers who had three… No, actually two matches in the past… Kid won the first, Razor the second and then, for mysterious reasons, Razor canceled the anticipated final bow at the last minute, making Kid hold a grudge till a new opportunity arises, many years later.

First let’s get some ROCKY references out of the way: Razor is forced into drinking raw eggs by his elderly manager Lighting, played by Alan Arkin, a "Mickey" type character… Also like the original Oscar-winning classic, Razor punches hanging beef in a meat locker… He's fired from a menial job, buys new clothes, drives around in a hotrod and fumbles lines off “dummy cards” during a commercial shoot ala ROCKY 2… In the backstory, after the success as a fighter, he loses his money and returns to poverty like ROCKY 5… He trains in a grueling, hands-on fashion like ROCKY 4 (physically pulling a truck named Road Hawk c/o OVER THE TOP).... He takes part in a virtual reality "What if" bout lifted from ROCKY BALBOA...

And at one point later on, during the promotional circuit, he and Kid wind up at an Ultimate Fighting venue where Razor, comparing the popular sport to scripted Professional Wrestling, is threatened by a melodramatic blowhard brawler: reminiscent of Hulk Hogan in ROCKY 3… As for De Niro’s Kid, he retired from boxing with a lucrative car lot but also runs a nightclub where he, like RAGING BULL himself, performs a laconic stand-up routine.

Stallone pounds meat in ROCKY
While not as good as it should be with the talent on board, GRUDGE MATCH isn't as god-awful as the maligned (and already Razzie nominated) reputation… The lightweight banality sheds an endearing glow, and Kid has a few moving conversations with his estranged son, played by WALKING DEAD actor Jon Bernthal…

Their scenes fare better than the contrived dialogue between Stallone and Arkin. Perhaps more tragic than De Niro and Stallone playing down to light comedy is that Arkin, no stranger to evoking genuine audience laughter, isn’t funny at all. But he's not the comic relief...

In that department is Kevin Hart as the motormouth promoter keeping a reluctant Razor on board the upcoming payday, trying way too hard with an annoying Chris Tucker imitation. After a while his frantic intrusion tappers off, which leads to something even more ghastly, blunting the dynamic of Bernthal’s character: One of the worst child actors in history, playing Kid’s grandson, enters the show and never leaves.

DeNiro in RAGING BULL
Meanwhile our two rivals seem to be going through the motions. Their constant bickering is liken to GRUMPY OLD MEN sans the essential cantankerous anti-chemistry. Supposedly these guys hate each other yet seem pretty content, making us forget the entire purpose. But their combined scenes are merely sporadic: Much of the film involves dragging conversations with side-characters, ranging from trainers to the sole love interest played by Kim Basinger.

Will or won’t Razor stay in the fight becomes the only suspense till the final match where two old dudes beat each other raw like that frozen beef. Here’s where we finally get some old school blood and gusto, but it’s much to late to save a missed opportunity involving this rare superstar collective, intriguing and disappointing both cult and mainstream audiences.
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