"Grudge Match" is a sort of "Punchy Old Men," a slow-footed high-concept comedy that pairs up the screen's greatest pugilists, circa 1981, for a few slaps and a few laughs.
Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone square off as aged boxers brought back by desperation and a desperate fight promoter, played by Kevin Hart. Hart slows his roll to match his two leads and the sluggish film around them, where every punch, every gag and most performances is played at half speed.
Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) were light heavyweights who had unfinished business in the '80s. Razor walked away from a decisive third fight after each had taken out the other once in their rivalry.
Kid, a boozing braggart, never forgave Razor. He drinks and does a Jake LaMotta ("Raging Bull") sort of stand-upact in his bar, where he gets to live the ex-jock's dream in their hometown of Pittsburgh.
Razor went broke, went to work in a steel mill and never got over the woman who came between them (Kim Basinger).
Then the son (Hart) of the promoter who ripped them off back in the day cons them into doing some video game motion capture work, reviving their rivalry for a few bucks. That could lead to "Kardashian sex-tape money" if he can get the two 60somethings -- who hate each other -- back in the ring.
Alan Arkin is the foul-mouthed old man Razor wants to train him. Kid can't convince anybody that the fight is anything but a joke, so his newly discovered adult son (Jon Bernthal) takes that gig for him.
Let the countdown to "Grudgement Day" begin.
There's a comforting "we're not dead yet" message to this, especially in the inevitable training sequences. Stallone, who has battled age with the sorts of treatments that turn your face into scrap iron, looks rough, even if he can still carry the bulk. But De Niro, who has been playing old men for 20 years, looks a decade younger.
2 stars (Grade: C)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger
Directed by Peter Segal, written by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman. A Warner Bros. release.
Running time: 1:53
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language