Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rocky Meets Raging Bull In New 'Grudge Match'

So, you're thinking to yourself "Oh, no . . . not another Sylvester Stallone boxing movie!"
Stallone is now 67 years old.
And this time he's teamed up with another actor who gained fame in a fight film, the great Robert Di Niro, who's now 70 years old.
Yes, it's Rocky (1976) meets Raging Bull (1980) in Grudge Match, a film about (You guessed it!) two aging pugilists who are reunited for one last bout.
And you're scratching your head wondering "How the hell are they gonna pull this off?"
Well, don't underestimate the cleverness of Stallone & Co. and the seasoned acting chops of both stars. Because this film is not what you might think it is -- if you can get past the whole concept in the first place.
So, the first rule here is: Stop jumping ahead of yourself and practically upchucking at the thought of Stallone (Razor) and Di Niro (Kid) in boxing shorts going at one another. Get over that and just sit back and let the story unfold. Because the screenplay by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman (based on a story by Kelleher) is remarkably good. The movie's zingy lines are up-to-the-minute and delivered with snazzy, pinpoint timing. And the story takes turns you might not expect.
Plus, scenes are quick and move along at a lively jaunt.
But all of this would be pretty much for naught without great acting. What a joy it is to gaze our eyes upon Kim Bassinger (as the gal the guys fight over) in a long-overdue return to the screen. Nobody heats up a cold, gritty Pittsburgh backdrop like Bassinger. And Alan Arkin as Stallone's former trainer who's plucked out of a nursing home? Well, he's character actor gold -- pure gold. And then there's Kevin Hart as boxing promoter Dante Slate, Jr. Hart gives the film a fresh, urban hipness that will please younger audiences. Ditto newcomer Jon Bernthal as BJ, Di Niro's son. Bernthal is a young actor to watch. And while you're at it, keep an eye out for comedian Rich Little who's also got a role in this film. Under the able direction of Peter Segal this well-casted ensemble makes the whole thing funny, poignant, entertaining and just this side of believable.
We were skeptical, to say the least.
But Grudge Match (which opens on Christmas day) actually works.

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