Stallone, De Niro Face Off in Grudge Match
In Grudge Match, a pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout — 30 years after their last match. In one corner, we have 67-year-old, two-time Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone, who played Rocky Balboa in six films dating back to 1976. Opposite the Italian Stallion, we have 70-year-old, two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro, who delivered a knockout performance as Jake “The Raging Bull” LaMotta in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 biopic about the former middleweight champion from the Bronx.
In Grudge Match, De Niro stars as Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Stallone pays Henry “Razor” Sharp, two local Pittsburgh boxers whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other in their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers.
Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), the son of their former promoter, tries to put them together for a video game. On their first encounter in decades, their long-festering feud erupts into an unintentionally hilarious melee that instantly goes viral thanks to YouTube.
Seeing big dollar signs, Slate Jr. makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all. But thanks to their ongoing feud over Razor’s former girlfriend who Billy slept with and ensuing hijinks, the social media frenzy transforms their local grudge match into a must-see HBO event. When they were younger, they were fierce competitors. Now they find themselves facing off as grumpy old men settling a score.
Kim Basinger plays Sally Rose, the woman caught in a love triangle between them back then and now. Alan Arkin is Louis “Lightning” Conlon, Stallone’s cynical and creative trainer. Jon Bernthal is BJ, the son Billy didn’t know he had with Basinger. LL Cool J shows up as a fight club owner who tries to take advantage of Billy.
How many heels does it get?
Grudge Match is NOT a boxing movie, but a comedy. Think of it as a Rocky-versus-Raging Bull with punch lines — sort of. There are homages to the fight movies like when Razor and his trainer are in a meat locker and Razor goes to punch the side of beef but Conlon says they are only there to pick up a little dinner. The script by Tim Kelleher is inspired by the proposed 1999 bout between oldsters Larry Holmes and George Foreman that was never fought. Redemption is part of the equation, so is a sub plot dealing with living a life of regret. The movie is no slugfest, but it is sluggish at times. The best part is the interactions between Hart and Arkin. Rated PG-13. Opens Dec. 25, 2013.
My rating: 3 out of 5 Heels
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.