It's been a few years since a boxing movie has been a true blockbuster hit. But the upcoming Grudge Match from Warner Bros. aims to reverse the genre's bum luck at the box-office by casting a couple of ringers: Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro.
Stallone and De Niro star in Grudge Match as Henry "Razor" Sharp and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen, two boxers whose lives and careers were defined by their lifelong rivalry. Though the duo squared off in the ring twice, which each man scoring a victory, Stallone's Razor retired before they could fight the tie-breaking match. The film picks up the story 30 years later, when the men show up to record motion-capture for a boxing video game and end up boxing for real.
That's the story of Grudge Match — but the real hook, of course, is that the movie features Sylvester "Rocky" Stallone squaring off against Robert "Raging Bull" De Niro in the ring. This is stunt-casting of the highest order, and the trailer stops just short of openly acknowledging it. (There's even an eyeroll-worthy scene in which Stallone's trainer, played by Alan Arkin, chides him for attempting to punch a hanging piece of meat.)
That said, there is something undeniably stirring about the stars of the two greatest boxing movies in cinema history getting back in the ring, and the trailer for Grudge Match packs in a few great moments. In recent years, both Stallone and De Niro have sold out portions of their legacies for weak movies that sell themselves as nostalgia for their earlier, better roles — De Niro is doing it again this weekend with The Family — but Grudge Match has the potential to be a worthwhile movie on its own terms.
"A great performer knows when it's time to get off the stage, Kid," says De Niro's trainer in the trailer. Let's hope that's not what critics are saying when Grudge Match debuts in December.