Grudge Match – 2013

Director Peter Segal
Starring Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal
Screenplay Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman

It’s been so long since Stallone has been in a film that seemed unguarded of actor’s egos, one has difficulty picturing him going through the editing process with each of the actors, saying, “Do you think you look good there?  If not, we can redo it.”  Throughout the whole of Grudge Match, the only one taking any risk of looking bad is De Niro.  Even then, I am not sure he realizes that he looks bad.

The story’s mythical scenario has Stallone and De Niro as a couple of has been boxers, each with one loss to their name, and that loss is to the other.  Their names, respectively, are Henry “Razor” Sharp and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen.  I use the quotes because the dialogue is so bad that it feels like we are getting air quotes throughout.  The prologue gives us some badly animated footage that looks so funny you’d think it was part of Sharknado.  There is a third match set up, but before it goes through, “Razor” quits boxing, seemingly never to return.  The rest of the film labors through why “Razor” quit, what they both have been up to, and why they have the rematch.  I’ll give you one hint: it’s because Stallone is a saint.

The acting is strictly average throughout.  As I said before, no one looks bad in this film, so no one can look really good either.  There are no standouts.  They even make Alan Arkin look silly by putting him in a wheelchair first, then having him walk around later, then back to the chair.  It depends, really, on whether the sad music is playing in the background and Stallone needs another level of brightness to his halo.

Kevin Hart, who is in everything these days, offers absolutely nothing here.  The Stallone effect strains any of the (albeit slight) edge to his act and makes him just another loudmouth who kisses Stallone’s ass.

De Niro is an enigma.  He can do wonderful work when he is with the right director, but he does so much slop like this these days, it’s hard to picture him as Jake LaMotta, Travis Bickle, Vito Corleone or, hell, I would even settle for Al Capone at this point.  This guy “The Kid” isn’t swinging a bat at anyone.

It’s nice to see Kim Basinger, even if the role adds nothing to her resume.  Bernathal is as intense as one could picture De Niro’s kid to be, if a little old.

For Stallone, what else can this guy do at this point?  All of his non-Rambo stuff is the same.  Everyone speaks glowingly of him, and his humility seems too well practiced to entertain.  He needs another Mickey to tell him where to stuff that false humility.  He does not have it here.

This film is for people who are hanging on to the hope that there is something left with Stallone and De Niro.  Ironically, its this very kind of film that lets us know its pretty much over for one (Stallone) if not both of them.

(** out of *****)

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