December 25, 2013 at 1:00 am

Review: Despite stars, 'Grudge Match' lacks power punch

Acting legends Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star in 'Grudge Match.' (Ben Rothstein / Warner Bros.)

“Rocky” and “Raging Bull” are not what they used to be.

The groan-worthy “Grudge Match” pits Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, two Hollywood legends with boxing film pedigrees, against each other in a head-to-head fight to the finish. But the jokes in this in-ring comedy land with an embarrassing thud, and the script is as wobbly as a punch drunk fighter struggling to stay on his feet. Sadly for the filmmakers, it’s the audience that will throw in the towel long before the final round.

Stallone is Henry “Razor” Sharp and De Niro is Billy “The Kid” McDonnen, two Pittsburgh fighters who split a pair of matches in the ’80s. A third and deciding match never came around, so a young promoter played by Kevin Hart decides to re-stoke their rivalry and get them back in the ring.

Stallone is 67, De Niro is 70, so you can guess where a great deal of the jokes go. But neither of the stars is invested in the material, and the film wastes a cast that also includes Academy Award winners Kim Basinger (as a woman who has a past with both fighters) and Alan Arkin (as Sharp’s trainer). Hart, always a livewire, tries to make something happen but he can’t, and his sparring with Stallone, De Niro and Arkin is forced.

Directed by Adam Sandler regular Peter Segal (“50 First Dates,” “The Longest Yard”), “Grudge Match” goes for the touchy-feelies when all else fails, but this sucker is fixed from the beginning.

Stick with your memories of Rocky Balboa and Jake La Motta, because “Grudge Match” isn’t a fight worth fighting.

'Grudge Match'


Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language

Running time: 113 minutes