Stallone and De Niro can’t get “Grudge Match” off the canvas

Sylvester Stallone in Grudge Match

Two stars

GRUDGE MATCH Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kevin Hart. Directed by Peter Segal. Rated PG-13. Now playing.

Despite what the marketing campaign might lead you to believe, Grudge Match is not the equivalent of Freddy vs. Jason featuring Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta. Stars Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro trade on their histories of playing iconic boxers (Stallone more so than De Niro), but their characters’ resemblance to those screen legends is purely coincidental. Instead, Stallone plays Henry “Razor” Sharp, and De Niro plays Billy “The Kid” McDonnen, former rivals who fought just twice during their careers, each winning once.

The movie’s jokes are as unimaginative as the characters’ nicknames, with plenty of tired old-age gags as Razor and Kid are coaxed into a 30-years-later rematch by the smooth-talking son (Kevin Hart) of their former promoter. Each character gets a bland, predictable emotional arc (Razor reconnects with his former girlfriend, played by Kim Basinger; Kid bonds with the son he never knew) that resolves neatly, and the climactic bout lacks drama because neither character is worth rooting for (or against). The actors are just going through the motions, and the uninspired writing and direction give them little reason to put in any effort. They make it to the final round, but they never come close to a knockout

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