Review: ‘Grudge Match’ (M) ***

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IN his early 70s, Robert De Niro – who won an Oscar for Jake La Motta in “Raging Bull” – plays Billy “the Kid” McDonnen who 30 years earlier had both won and lost light heavyweight fights against Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone, now 67, who played Rocky Balboa).

Since that second bout, the Kid and Razor, nurturing mutual hatred and resentment, haven’t settled who was the greater boxer. Then motor-mouthed promoter Dante (Kevin Hart) gets to work on arranging a nostalgia bout to settle the matter.

These characters and situations segue into a film combining humour with pugilism and a back story involving Sally (Kim Basinger, at 60 looking about half that age) who was Razor’s girl back when. The result of Sally’s one-night stand with the Kid was a son, who now offers to train his father and whose own son is a cute kid such as decorates many films in which family performs a leavening role.

Also along is Alan Arkin, doing his well-polished grumpy old man as Razor’s trainer.

Writer Tim Kelleher assembles the components of “Grudge Match” into a low-key drama that, between laughs, polarises our attitudes about which of the contestants we hope to see winning its ultimate bout.

Predictably, the boxing sequences lack the dramatic power of “Raging Bull” or “Rocky”, or indeed of any other film in that genre.

One’s personal attitude toward pugilism will doubtless influence one’s decision about whether or not to see Peter Segal’s film. That aside, it has acceptable entertainment values.

 At Limelight and Hoyts

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