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Grudge Match


Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, Jon Bernthal, Camden Gray, LL Cool J, Joey Coco Diaz, Jim Lampley

Director: Peter Segal

The plot?

If you figure out you’re seeing Rocky meets Raging Bull after 30 years, you won’t go far wrong.

And why not?

After all, we’ve already had several septuagenarians having a ball in Vegas.

And here, following the pensioner-friendly vogue, the climactic televised boxing match between Stallone (67) and De Niro (70) is sponsored by the American dietary supplement Geritol.

Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman’s sentiment-saturated, dramatic-comic screenplay (De Niro reconciles with his long estranged son Jon Bernthal, Stallone finds true love with Kim Basinger) misses few clichés. Happily the affair finally comes off rather well under Peter Segal’s straightforward star-centred direction as pleasing switch-off-your-brain entertainment. Cineaste’s looking for subtext may feel themselves being starved of intellectual stimulation - but that’s show business.

De Niro, whose comic timing gets better and better after such previous embarrassments as Meet the Fockers clearly enjoys himself as he trains to finally get his revenge on Stallone after three decades and doesn’t mind making a fool of himself in the process. When his all-too-obvious man boobs bounce during training, the comment ‘bad Baywatch’ follows. And the duo’s singing of the US National Anthem at a sports event is very funny indeed (unless, possibly, you are American?)

I enjoyed watching Stallone upstaging him much of the time. De Niro must have known this was likely since he persuaded Stallone to join him in Grudge Match. On screen, as also happened in the stars’ London press conference, De Niro seems perfectly happy to play Abbott to Stallone’s gag-making Costello.

Kim Basinger is fine as the catalytic girl in the show, while Alan Arkin has a ball as Sly’s ancient trainer, forcing the actor to drag a a car and later a giant truck and conning him into soaking his fists in a bucket of horse urine to make them more leathery.

If you’re looking for Art, forget it. But if you fancy a lighthearted, star-driven show with a load of (not too vicious) fighting this will do very nicely. Just don’t figure on remembering it for long.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour.
113 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 18 Jan 2014