Director: Peter Segal
Screenwriter: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal
Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC, 12/18/13
Opens: December 25, 2013
Strange thing about political correctness. It’s no longer OK in civilized company (thank goodness) to put down a people because of their gender, ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual preferences. But somehow there’s no ban on laughing at the elderly. Ironically, most razzers would rather live a long time as this is better than the alternative, which means that everyone expects to get old. What’s the logic behind making fun of what you’re bound to become? In Peter Segal’s “Grudge Match,” much humor is made of the idea that two people in their sixties are training to fight each other. They’re called “geriatrics” and one guy wonders whether if one of the contenders is knocked down, does he have a life support system with him to contact help.
The comedy behind “Grudge Match,” then, is the very fact that two people, both former light-heavyweight champs, are getting together for a third bout thirty years after their previous time in the ring. It’s a grudge match because the publicity people like to spread the word that two boxers hate each other and because in this case one guy was sleeping with the girlfriend of the other a few decades back.
In one ring, we will find Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and in the other, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro). (De Niro? McDonnen?) Of course most of the movie takes place before the big bout, much of the dialogue boggling the imagination even more than the idea of senior citizens in boxing gloves. For example, would anyone believe that Razor’s steady girlfriend 30 years ago was Sally Rose (Kim Basinger), a woman who now is chasing after her beau with romance on her mind and apologizing for hitting the sack with his rival? Basinger, who is sixty, looks just a few hours older than she did in 1983 when she appeared as Domino Petachi in the James Bond vehicle “Never Say Never Again.” Maybe someone looking like her today would not give a guy like Sylvester Stallone the time of day, but then Sly is looking fit and trim. He may not have had “work done,” but he has been training long before he signed on to this movie. For his part De Niro is no Raging Bull, but he impresses us at age seventy on the chinning bar and jumping on rope.
Everyone’s in great shape, then. Razor, The Kid, and Sally Rose, but the screenplay could use more shaping up as it’s loaded with the usual clichés and a motor-mouth Kevin Hart in the role of Dante Slate Jr. who is promoting the fight. Alan Arkin as Louis “Lightning” Conlon gets in some comic riffs about old age as Razor’s former trainer who has just been tossed out of assisted living home for giving the staff some mouth and who has been talked into taking the spotlight again by training the former light-heavyweight champ, while Jon Bernthal milks sentiment as The Kid’s estranged son who is convinced to train his dad.
It will be refreshing to see young people going to a movie starting Christmas Day about people twice their age, and hopefully they won’t find any need to make fun of the stars because of their long residence on our planet. This is commercial fare, polished, lots of extras, the usual $$$ though it’s not likely to draw a potential audience of those following Spike Jonze, Jim Jarmusch or Paul Thomas Anderson.
Rated PG-13. 113 minutes © 2013 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C+
Acting – B-
Technical – B-
Overall – C+