Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2013. Callahan Filmworks, Gerber Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Warner Bros.. Story by Tim Kelleher, Screenplay by Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman. Cinematography by Dean Semler. Produced by Michael Ewing, Bill Gerber, Mark Steven Johnson, Ravi D. Mehta, Peter Segal. Music by Trevor Rabin. Production Design by Wynn Thomas. Costume Design by Mary E. Vogt. Film Editing by William Kerr.
It’s not all that surprising to see two Hollywood old-timers poking fun at their own mythologies, but the sportsmanship with which it is done here makes this a surprisingly watchable comedy. Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro play once-famous boxers whose rivalry was in the headlines thirty years earlier before Stallone made a rash decision to retire from the brutal sport. Now he is broke and working a menial job, supporting his ex-trainer (Alan Arkin, as always memorably feisty) while De Niro runs a moderately successful restaurant and car dealership, far more in the local profile but also far from his prime. An HBO special about their past inspires their former promoter’s son (Kevin Hart) to hire them to film a video game based on their personas; the two are reunited and the blows start to fly, provoking a media frenzy that suddenly sees them finally getting back into the ring and facing each other down. Training for this now highly publicized event is going to be no easy task considering how many years and layers they need to strip off to get themselves back to athletically viable condition, plus their personal lives have gotten so much more complicated: the woman who once came between the two men (Kim Basinger) has resurfaced, and she has a son who belongs to one of them. The film is sometimes touching, never schmaltzy, and somewhat strange: it’s a movie about male aggression that tries to convince you that it’s about the brotherhood of man, except that just about every time these guys connect they get super proud of either beating someone up or having done so in the past. What is surprising, and what prevents such thematic confusion from ruining it, is how genuinely funny it is, with one-liners flying out of all the characters’ mouths at a rapid pace. Stallone’s dry reserve and De Niro’s manic neuroses combine beautifully for great Bugs and Daffy cameraderie, while Basinger couldn’t be lovelier in support, making more than just The Girl out of her few moments (though unfortunately she doesn’t get to be funny, one of the film’s major flaws), and Arkin and Hart enjoy a few spars that make the film go down that much easier.