Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert DeNiro, Kim Basinger, LL Cool J, Alan Arkin, Ireland Basinger-Baldwin (Rated M – 113 min).
Rocky and Raging Bull fight night is something I never thought I would see, it’s the aging battle of the Hollywood heavyweights, literally. Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro both play former boxers and bitter rivals with the feuding still existing to this day. Suspending belief is the best way to enjoy this film.
Sly is Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp while DeNiro is Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen, the pair are obviously having fun with these characters which translates into amusing elaborate comedy. A rematch is proposed, the pair put on the gloves and enter the ring one more time for reasons unknown to everyone else, except themselves. Closure seems to be the thought from former trainers and excited fans. Both have been out of the boxing game for some time, keeping away from the public eye and not talking to each other since their last bout ended controversially three decades earlier.
Old school pugilists all the way, technology and social media provide generational laughs, anyone familiar with the Rocky series of films will cherish some of the memorable references. The plot relies on the charm and comic timing of these two cinematic legends instead of actual storyline. Stallone has been ridiculed for his lighter side over the years, but even though ‘Stop, or my Mum Will Shoot’ or ‘Oscar’ were flawed, his comical attributes had promise. DeNiro on the other hand is either delightful (Meet the Fockers) or disastrous (Rocky & Bullwinkle). At least the guys know how to send themselves up as they do here quite effectively.
Moving fast, the feel good nature is another positive, the whole cast don’t take things seriously which helps the unbelievable premise as simple entertainment. Better suited to a half an hour television sit-com, the senior citizen jokes wear thin. Looking quite magnificent as Sally, Kim Basinger becomes the rose amongst the thorns bringing out the flirtatious side when she’s around the grumpy duo. She provides support, advice and lifelong friendship in rare tender moments. Her real life daughter Ireland, from a previous marriage with Alec Baldwin, plays a younger version of Sally in a nice piece of transitional casting.
The lead up to the big challenge takes a few twists with everything from training routines compromised to pesky media looking for a headline. The resurrection of the former champs gains momentum and eventually becomes a majorly anticipated main event to the delight of the promoters. Whenever Alan Arkin (Oscar winner for Argo) was on screen, I was transfixed. His motor mouth of hilarious quips impress as he deals with reality questioning why he is actually endorsing the boxing match that really shouldn’t be happening in the first place.
Shane A. Bassett
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