Sylvestor Stallone became a star after his film Rocky took Hollywood by storm and not only spawning numerous sequels, but his last entry into the series was also a part of his big comeback. Now he is stepping back into the ring again for a different kind of boxing film and bringing along Robert De Niro who while has been in a ton of classic films also received critical acclaim as a boxer in Raging Bull. These two icons haven’t done a film together since 1997s Cop Land, but are squaring off in their latest Grudge Match, but do they still have the boxing skill and chemistry to make this film work?
Grudge Match follows a pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout 30 years after their last match. This film could not be more perfectly timed as both of their famed boxing movies were originally released over 30 years ago allowing these guys to play their actual age. The promotion for this movie was a bit off as everyone knows about Stallone’s attachment to Rocky, but sadly there aren’t quite as many of the younger audiences that know of Raging Bull, although they should. This is a perfect pairing of film boxing legends to create something fun, but does hit a few bumps in execution. The story itself works fine and would have worked a lot better had they just let it focus on their rivalry and struggle of training as opposed to the love triangle and family issues. These aspects work fine, but just take you out of the fun of seeing these guys do their thing. The first half of the film feels a bit forced, but once you get them together the laughs begin and it ended up being a pretty good time. Stallone seemed to phone in some of his performance, but his willingness to make fun of himself more than make up for it. De Niro looks to be having the most fun on screen in sometime. He goes all in with the physical and comedy aspect of the film making him the most entertaining of the pair. The supporting cast including Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal, and Kim Basinger all do a good job bringing the story together, but it’s the banter between Hart and Arkin that is the most entertaining of the entire film.
The film takes a little long to get to the match messing around with the sub-plots, but once there its worth the fun. There are numerous moments in the fight that are kind of ridiculous in relation to the direction they go, but is understandable for the story they are trying to tell. If you just buy into the fact that this is more of a comedy with some heart instead of Rocky or Raging Bull then you will most likely have some fun. This whole film is worth just getting these guys in the ring and seeing them go at it even if it isn’t in their prime.