By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
In this corner, weighing over his prime fighting weight so we'll photograph him from the chest up: Two-time Academy Award winner, lately an actor in anything that pays, the Raging Bull himself, Robert De Niro.
In this corner — and who cares what he weighs but what's up with his torso? — an actor who's been to the Academy Awards, the Italian stallion with the stallin' speech, Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone.
Come in close, fellas, before we get this Grudge Match underway. Just a few rules first. We want a nice, clean movie, suitable for your reputations yet mocking them ever so smartly. You each get one shot at romancing a woman one-third your age, or you swap that for being the guy to make funny faces getting a rectal exam. You can't have both.
Bobby, your name is Billy McDonnen but your boxing name is the Kid. You're a go-getter, owning a used car dealership and a restaurant where you hold court and where, in lighter shades of Raging Bull's finale, you do standup comedy with a puppet. Sound good?
Sly, your name is Henry Sharp but everyone calls you Razor, get it? You lost your money to a shady promoter, work at a closing factory and bills are piling up, for you and your former manager, played crustily adorable by Alan Arkin. Are we clear?
You guys despise each other because Kid slept with Razor's girlfriend — where have you been, Kim Basinger? — and produced a son. Now she's back, the kid's grown into Jon Bernthal, so he's buff enough to train Kid, who ignored him all his life. Are you with me here? I know the plot's more trouble than it's worth but bear with me.
Now, these people in the seats are expecting a good show, so here's what I want from you: Bobby, give me less bull, more rage, make Kid funnier than the jerk the script sets him up to be. Sly, don't play Razor with such a dull edge. Each of you is obligated to reference your previous boxing movies, either with CGI re-toolings where your face is pasted on someone else's body, or gags like Sly chugging eggs and almost punching a side of beef.
You are required by the sports comedy commission to have at least one professionally trained comedian in your corners at all time. I see you're both utilizing Kevin Hart's expertise in motor-mouthed urban weaselry. Good choice.
Other than that, this Grudge Match is winners take all and losers bought tickets. Now, tap gloves, and cash those paychecks.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.