SYNOPSIS: In “Grudge Match,” De Niro and Stallone play Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Henry “Razor” Sharp, two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other during 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., seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all.
REVIEW: For those of you that were on the edge of your seats awaiting the next Sylvester Stallone release (I can’t imagine who you are), this would be it! However, for those of us that have seen him morph one too many times in an attempt to return to his glory days on the big screen, we say enough is enough “Rocky!” The Rocky Balboa eighties’ star teams up with Robert De Niro (Jake LaMotta's memoir Raging Bull: My Story), Kevin Hart (This Is the End, 2013), Alan Arkin (Marley & Me, 2008) and Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead – TV series), in this slapstick style comedy “Grudge Match.” This is a flick that can only be compared to the likeness of 1993’s “Grumpy old men.” Resulting in what feels a little like watching Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta having a go at it. I would even dare to say that this is the direct result of when Hollywood goes frequently rummaging through its creative dumpster for never-ending sequels, remakes and associative efforts.
On the bright side, "Grudge Match" sets the right tone, embracing a nice balance of crowd-pleasing comedy and lightweight family drama and adding nothing too overwhelming in terms of substance. Stallone in particular seems to be making a legitimate effort, to show off his softer side to Hollywood; Though, I can’t say that it really made a huge impact on the outcome of the flick. Nevertheless, the supporting actors are solid throughout, with Kevin Hart adding a welcomed youthful edge to the comedy, as their desperately broke fight promoter. Arkin and Bernthal are solid contributors as Razor's (Stallone) aging trainer and the latter playing The Kid's (De Niro) estranged son.
One more point to make for this latest Stallone effort: The post-credits sequence involving Hart's next fight is one of the best in recent memory. I’ll give nothing else away, except to say that it's pretty close in greatness to "The Avengers" end-of-credits promo.
All-in-all, the movie is not the huge blockbuster material we have come to expect from the leading men in “Grudge Match;” However, it does present some level of satisfaction in the area of comedic prowess. Without Hart’s signature style comedy I would have probably been forced to regard it as a “flop;” However, I’d give it three out of five stars simply based on Hart’s ability to carry the film from beginning to end.
By Movi-Man Stan
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