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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Susan Granger's review of 'Grudge Match'

Published 6:08 pm, Friday, January 10, 2014
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It's a bit misleading to believe that just because 67-year-old Sylvester Stallone and 70-year-old Robert De Niro are sparring in a boxing ring, there's going to be a retirement-age match between Rocky Balboa and Jake "Raging Bull" LaMotta. `Cause that's not what happens.

Having retired from boxing, Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) works in a steel mill, which helps pay retirement home bills for his curmudgeonly former trainer, Lightning Conlon (Alan Arkin). Razor's perennial Pittsburgh rival, womanizing Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro), owns a car dealership and a steakhouse, where he continues to milk his fleeting fame in a nightclub act. As light heavyweights, they fought each other twice -- back in the 1980s -- each scoring one victory. But then Razor abruptly -- and inexplicably -- quit boxing, leaving McDonnen yearning for that elusive third battle for the crown. Cue the fast-talking son of their former promoter, Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), who cleverly manipulates both men into participating in a video game. Their unexpected brawl during a motion-capture session becomes a viral sensation, leading to a real rematch, which is dubbed "Grudgement Day." Adding emotional complications, the woman who once came between them (Kim Basinger) resurfaces, along with McDonnen's now-grown, illegitimate son (Jon Bernthal), who becomes his trainer.

Screenwriters Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman ("First Kid," "Two and a Half Men") have patched together snippets of cliched nostalgia, mixed with legendary imagery, crudely masquerading as a script. The flaccid direction of Peter Segal ("Get Smart") encourages both Stallone and De Niro to unabashedly ham it up. And watching these two wrinkled, leathery grandfathers -- who are way past their prime -- strip to the waist, touch gloves and duke it out in a big arena showdown in front of cheering crowds is not only callously cruel but also pathetic. Adding insult to injury, the CGI placement of Stallone and De Niro's youthful faces on other actors' bodies is visually ludicrous.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Grudge Match" flails at a 5 -- with the funniest scenes occurring during the end credits.