Film Review: Grudge Match 

Over-the-hill fight comedy is no knockout.

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo

Grudge Match | D

Sagging flesh collides with a flurry of drooping jowls in a desperate display of fading virility; and I’m speaking not just of the stars of the hopelessly unfunny Grudge Match, but of the clueless suits who green-lit it.

The Baby Boom generation, the 800-pound gorilla of the last half-century, steadfastly refuses to gracefully surrender its cultural dominance, and so we are all subjected to the sorry spectacle of screen icons continuing to slog onward, no matter how shamefully flimsy or unworthy the material happens to be.

Robert De Niro, once the most ferociously intense and dedicated actor anywhere, has been busily shoveling mountains of manure on his peerless legacy for more than a decade. 

There is no comedy project idiotic or embarrassing enough for “Bobby D” to reject, in what appears to be a deranged attempt to erase all memory of great roles such as Travis Bickle from the collective consciousness. How else can we explain his recent appearance in the atrocious casino product placement and Viagra advert Last Vegas, or the endless, dire Fockers sequels? At least overly busy De Niro can still be bothered to turn in a quality performance now and then, as he did last year in Silver Linings Playbook; the same cannot be said of poor old Sylvester Stallone, who continues to lumber through doltish, throwback action pictures, like a poltergeist that can’t find the attic exit.

These old pros are assembled for a bit of crowd-baiting piffle about crotchety palookas attempting to settle a long-festering feud while grabbing one more shot at the spotlight. Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and his hated rival, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro), waged two epic battles for the light-heavyweight boxing crown 30-odd years ago, with each man winning a fight. The climactic “rubber match” never came, though, as Sharp hung up his gloves, and decades of bitterness steadily built between the old adversaries. Now, a video game company and an opportunistic young promoter (Kevin Hart) have conspired to finally make the rematch happen.

Because surely, what the dwindling number of fight fans are clamoring for is to pony up for a pay-per-view slugfest between a couple of doddering coots that would never be medically cleared to fight in reality. 

The feeble script limps along painfully, and the scant few laughs are provided by obvious improvs from Hart’s zippy motor-mouth. Surely, “Rocky vs. Raging Bull” was once an appealing pitch, but that was when Ronnie Reagan was still handing out jellybeans in the Oval Office. That era has passed and the only merciful thing left for them to do is throw in the towel. 

Grudge Match opens Dec. 25., is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 113 minutes.

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