Director: Peter Segal.
Screenplay: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal, LL Cool J, Barry Primus, Anthony Anderson, Ireland Baldwin, Rich Little, Roy Jones Jr, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson.
“Yeah, look at us! We’re not dead! Everyone’s laughing at us! The whole world’s laughing at us! But we’re not dead! In fact, I feel more alive now than I ever felt!”
Although their careers have went in very different paths, Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro have been around roughly the same amount of time and have, on occasion, come together. In 1976, they were Best Actor nominees for two of their most successful roles in “Rocky” and “Taxi Driver” (both losing out to Peter Finch in “Network“) and in 1997 they shared the screen for the first time in “Cop Land“. Now they’re at it again…
Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp (Stallone) and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen (DeNiro) where once two towering rivals in the boxing ring. However, after one win each, Sharp promptly announced retirement leaving the public and McDonnen eager for a deciding match. 30 years down the line, they are both given another opportunity to settle their score once and for all.
Who would win in a fight between Rocky Balboa and Raging Bull’s Jake LaMotta? – you can almost hear the film being pitched by some fanboy fantasist as two of cinema’s most iconic films and boxing characters are capitalised on. There seems to be a lack of decorum in it’s concept and it only goes to show that money always does the talking in Hollywood.
Basically, what you see is what you get. It has an element of fun but really never extends to anything more as it leans heavily on the ridiculously cliched and self-indulgent end of things. In fairness, this probably did sound like a good idea, especially when the leads seem to be game for sending themselves up but really, it’s all just mediocre tosh.
You’d have to be punch drunk to find anything more than a modicum of enjoyment and that essentially comes from the two stars’ commitment and conviction. Stallone does his usual Sly-schtick and the kind of vehicle you expect from him these days. The same could be said for DeNiro but he does seem quite up for having a laugh and surprisingly delivers an entertaining performance. As for the support, Jon Bernthal does what what he can in a small underwritten role as DeNiro’s son while Kevin Hart’s promotor is only added for irritating comic relief. Alan Arkin brings a welcome light humour to the proceedings but it’s certainly not up to his usual standard and Kim Basinger has little to do but stand around the periphery, sulking about her past history between the two boxers. That’s about all that can be said as this certainly isn’t a film that would require any form of an in-depth dissection. I’ve said enough already.
It may be a bit unfair to criticise the fitness of the stars (Stallone’s 67 and DeNiro’s 70) but this isn’t so much Grudge Match as Pudge Match. The two ageing stars struggle to move themselves around the ring let alone land a blow. There are some blows to be had, though, but they only connect with their fading reputations.
Trivia: In the mid-credits scene, on the wall of Dante’s (Kevin Hart) office is a fight poster written “Segal Vs Ewing”. This is a reference to the film producers Peter Segal and Michael Ewing.