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Hollywood finally delivers a Sly vs. De Niro 'Grudge Match' and it's decent

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Grudge Match


Release date: December 25, 2013

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Directed by: Peter Segal

Written by: Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Jon Bernthal, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart, and Alan Arkin

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Imagine a world in which two of the most famous movie boxers got together to determine who was the real king of the ring. In one corner is Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion, who was the star of six movies over the past 35 years. In the other corner is Jake La Motta, a real life boxer whose life was chronicled in Martin Scorcese's 1980 classic, "Raging Bull".

It may be impossible to get those two iconic characters together, but "Grudge Match" brings audiences about as close as they will ever get to that epic showdown. Unfortunately it comes about 30 years after it might have been a fight that lived up to the billing. But that's kind of the point of this silly comedy about two aging boxers that come out of retirement to face off one more time to settle their rivalry.

Sylvester Stallone plays Henry 'Razor' Sharp. Razor walked away from boxing 30 years ago right when he and Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen (Robert De Niro) were set to have their grudge match fight. Instead, the two boxers unceremoniously settled for a 1-1 tie against each other. There is a lot more to this feud than a simple boxing rivalry and of course, it involves a woman.

When Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart) -- who is the son of Razor's former lying, thieving manager -- approaches the two former champions about returning to a virtual ring to do motion capture for a state of the art video game, bad blood boils up and all of a sudden a video game rematch becomes a serious challenge for these two to settle their differences once and for all in the ring, giving them a chance to decide who really is the champ.

It's a preposterous setup and the script treats it that way. What starts out as a joke mocked by the media, the "Grudgement Day" fight soon starts to garner attention when Razor and The Kid set out to do some PR, which leads to some entertaining moments as the two men try to get in shape while fighting off the obvious remarks about their advanced age.

Directed by Peter Segal, who has delivered reliable comedies like "50 First Dates" and "Tommy Boy" in the past, handles this material well. He's wise not to take this too seriously. The idea that any boxing commission would go along with some a sure-fire public embarrassment is absurd, but Stallone and De Niro are believable as rivals in the ring and in life.

Jon Bernthal of "The Walking Dead" fame has a nice turn as The Kid's estranged son, while Kim Basinger, coming off a little rusty, plays a former love interest to Razor, who has a bit of past with The Kid as well. Alan Arkin plays Razor's trainer and of course has some of the best lines in the movie. His scenes with Kevin Hart are some real highlights. But at the same time, how long before it gets a little tired to see Arkin playing the grumpy old wise man -- even though he's always brilliant?

For what it is, "Grudge Match" is a nice little comedy that pokes fun at what could have been an intriguing match up had it happened 30 years ago. But that's life. And this movie takes some funny jabs at the price we pay of holding grudges, and learning that it's never too late to make up for lost time.

Rating: Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language

Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes

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