Yes, seeing the nods to the iconic boxing characters once played by the two stars is kind of cool. But overall, “Grudge Match” is just about what you’d expect: an average movie that’s an excuse to pair Sylvester Stallone with Robert De Niro in a sort of “Rocky vs. Raging Bull” picture.
Seems that back in the 1980s, the biggest rivals in the ring were Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone). They challenged each other in two matches in which the results were split. Razor retired, which prevented a third bout to break the tie.
Now, promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) decides to put together a “grudge match” decades later. The Kid is rarin’ to go, but not so much Razor, who is nonetheless tempted by the money so he can help out his ex-trainer, Lightning (Alan Arkin). Razor’s ex-girlfriend Sally Rose (Kim Basinger) is on hand, along with her son (Jon Bernthal) and his son.
De Niro’s movies have been erratic, to say the least, in the past few years. He’ll star in something almost unbearable like “The Big Wedding” and then he’ll make an appearance in Oscar-worthy films such as “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.” Stallone has played Rocky in so many sequels that he’s in familiar, and welcome, territory here. The funniest moments are owned by Arkin, whose attitude alone provides some genuine laughs.
Mostly, the humor is comprised of “old-people jokes” — you know, about how out of touch older folks are. It’s easy-to-write, lowbrow humor that, ironically, denigrates many members of the audience. What isn’t insulting to senior citizens is insulting to practically everyone else, including prostate exams and jokes about hookers.
Some scenes from the past, and, in fact, some toward the end of the movie, feature ghastly looking CGI that wouldn't fool anybody. It’s not the stars who look aged, it’s the quality of the show itself.
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Still, the movie, for all its faults, is average because it’s so bland. It’s nice to see these two revered actors together, even if the script isn’t worthy of either of them. There’s a really cool cameo of two actual, well-known boxers during the credits — so stay to see that if you want a real surprise.
The movie neither floats like a butterfly nor stings like a bee. It simply ambles along until to its less-than-grand finale (which, incidentally, includes one of the biggest nods to Rocky Balboa). This is fare best-suited for Blu-Ray rentals and matinees.