Grudge Match

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Grudge Match

Everyone loves fan fiction. Well, everyone in Hollywood loves fan fiction. It’s a great way to give people exactly what they want – or more accurately, exactly what they’ve already had – without having to pay out the big money in licensing fees. So 50 Shades of Grey is basically Twilight with the numbers filed off (and the vampires left out), Mortal Instruments: City of Bones started out life as Harry Potter fan fiction, and Grudge Match? Time to have all your “what would happen if Rocky met Jake LaMotta from Raging Bull?” questions answered. Not that Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are playing characters named “Rocky” and “Jake LaMotta” here.
Stallone is Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp, a working stiff who went back to his job at the shipyard after he quit boxing in the mid-’80s. He lives in a crap-shack, his only friend is his grumpy old trainer (Alan Arkin), and he’s broke. Meanwhile, De Niro is Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen and unlike Sharp, McDonnen held on to the money from his boxing career. Now he owns a car lot and a restaurant, where he does a LaMotta-style nightclub act involving a puppet.
Being broke, Sharp pretty much has to say yes when would-be boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) offers him fifteen grand to do some motion capture work for a boxing video game. Then when it turns out Slate offered McDonnen the same job and he also took it, they meet, they scuffle for real, it gets put on YouTube, it goes viral, and suddenly Slate reckons he can get serious money if he can get these two old guys to fight for real.
Yes, that was basically the same plot as the last Rocky movie. The advantage of having Stallone and De Niro playing characters they’ve done before is that they know what they’re doing, so while neither is in top form here – Stallone especially is utterly devoid of charisma, as he has been for pretty much his entire career – they keep things moving along fairly painlessly.
There are no surprises here whatsoever, but occasionally De Niro drops in a reminder of why he’s (still?) held is such high regard. For a by-the-number comedy like this, that’s something to be thankful for.
Written by Anthony Morris