'Grudge Match' no knockout
Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro fight each other as aging boxers in "Grudge Match," a comedy that lands few punches.
THE SHORTHAND for "Grudge Match" is "Rocky" versus "Raging Bull," and the movie does indeed unite Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro as boxers.
And there is Stallone, still drinking egg yolks, intent on practicing his punches on sides of meat - all played for laughs.
De Niro, though, is less of an obvious self-referential in-joke. He's playing an Irish-American boxer named Billy McDonnen, now retired and running a saloon, still smarting over a fight he lost to Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) decades ago.
A mouthy promoter (Kevin Hart) unites the old adversaries - still angry - for a video game, and tempers boil over into a YouTube video that lays the foundation for an actual fight.
Moreover, the story brings back the old flame (Kim Basinger) who's at the root of the rift between the two men, and there's a role for Jon Bernthal, as McDonnen's estranged son. Bernthal looks a bit like a young De Niro (perhaps that's why Scorsese cast him in "Wolf of Wall Street.")
The movie has a "Last Vegas" feel to it, an aged cast in a comedy that settles for easy geriatric jokes, mainly for devoted fans of the two leads.
And of Alan Arkin, who has a role here as Stallone's trainer, stuck with most of the script's prostate gags, although he has a few funny scenes with Hart.
I liked him a little better as Hirsch in the last-gangster-round-up "Stand Up Guys," a movie with at least one foot in reality.
In the end, Sharp and McDonnen actually do fight, because they need the money. Less clear is why Stallone and De Niro climbed in the ring for this comedy.