Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro return to the boxing arena -- portrayals for which they are both recognized -- and have a little fun at the expense of the sport in "Grudge Match."
The focus of the comedy is a rubber-match, 30 years in the making, between two former light heavyweight champions who hate each other.
Aging Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) works in a Pittsburgh factory and lives modestly, alone and out of the spotlight. He pays regular visits to his longtime trainer Louis "Lightning" Conlon (Alan Arkin), a curmudgeonly senior home resident who finds himself on the edge of eviction.
On the other side of coin, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (DeNiro) owns a large car dealership and remains a face in the crowd. Appearing at his own bar, regaling the clientele with stories of his legendary career as a boxer, partier and womanizer.
When the son of former legendary boxing promoter Dante Slate (a Don King type), Dante Slate, Jr. (comedian Kevin Hart) approaches each about making a few thousand dollars to step into a gaming studio to create digital images of themselves for a new legends boxing video, the two former foes -- dressed in green spandex-like body suits -- pick up where they left off. The brawl trashes the high dollar technology and thanks to some phone video it goes viral on YouTube.
A businessman offers to front the rubber-match between the two -- billed as "Grudgement Day" in Pittsburgh. Slate sees it as an opportunity to launch his career, The Kid is onboard immediately as this fight has left him hungry for three decades, but Razor remains reluctant, after unexpectedly walking away from the previous bout at the last minute.
Slate is able to get both fighters to sign on, and after a failed press conference to launch the geriatric showdown, the two boxing enemies embark on a series of ridiculous promotional event, highlighted by ongoing confrontations which continue to go viral. It's the unscripted battles that create the big hype for the fight.
Along the way, we learn that Razor's hate is fueled by The Kid's fling with his longtime love, Sally Rose (Kim Bassinger), during the two fighters' rivalry. The fruit of The Kid and Sally Rose's brief tryst, B.J. (Jon Bernthal) -- whose name becomes the brunt of several off-color references -- also comes into play. As he attempts to re-connect with his father and introduce him to his grandson, against Sally Rose's wishes, he becomes his father's boxing trainer.
Lightning moves in with Razor and leads his comeback attempt -- from the seat of his scooter -- complete with guzzling raw eggs, running the streets of Pittsburgh and a trip to the meat locker.
While Stallone and DeNiro are the headliners, the former "Rocky" and "Raging Bull" stars, take a back seat to Akrin and Hart who get all the best one-liners and moments in the film.
The film is cute, immensely predictable, and offers some pretty good chuckles and even a few laugh-out-loud moments.
It probably won't get a lot of nods in terms of "best boxing" or even top "sports" movies of all time, but it's not a bad way to spend a New Year's Eve matinee in the theater. And yes, you do get the fight between a couple of nearly 70-year-old men who aren't in too bad a shape despite their years on this earth.
On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, "Grudge Match" manages to fill 3 -- although a bit slower than in previous films. While the kernels appear to be a bit puffier once popped, they still taste as good as ever. Remember to coat with an adequate amount of buttery goodness, much like our senior fighters coat themselves with a large amount of Bengay after training. MPAA Rating -- PG-13. Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 Theater in Spencer.