The first Creed film was a big hit with both audiences and critics, so of course a sequel must be made. I was skeptical with the first film, but it blew me away and when it was announced that the sequel will be about Creed vs. Drago, I was pretty excited. I’m sure most fans of the Rocky franchise will tell people that Rocky 1 or 2 is their favorite because those films were considered more prestigious than the later sequels. But Rocky 4 is my favorite in the series. So, a rematch of Creed and Drago got me all pumped to see this film.
After becoming a world champ boxer, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is living the high life with his beautiful girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thomson) and father figure Rocky (Sly Stallone). While in the Ukraine, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) trains his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) to take down Creed. With the help of a boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), the Dragos challenges Creed to a match that the boxing world has been waiting to see for over three decades. Adonis is considering taking up the challenge because he believes this will be a revenge for his father’s death he always wanted. Rocky on the hand, fears that Adonis might not be able to beat Victor and don’t want to lose another person who is very close to him and basically the only family he has left.
The screenplay by Stallone and Juel Taylor were very well-written. Even though the storyline is pretty straightforward, they were able to focus more on the characters and it worked for me. The focus this time around is family and we see the struggle Adonis and Bianca is going through once they got married and became parents. Rocky and Adonis also have to deal with their sometime difficult father and son like relationship. I really appreciate that they gave the Dragos some backstory, so they’re not just one-dimensional villains. Fans of the franchise will probably recognize some of the elements from Rocky 3 and 4 were integrated into this one.
Stepped into the director’s chair this time is Steven Caple Jr. and I thought he did a pretty decent job. With the template set by the first film’s director Ryan Coogler, Caple just have to follow it. I thought he should’ve come up with a better way of filming the fight scenes though. The boxing scenes weren’t bad, I just wish they came up with something more creative.
I was most impressed with the performances by the lead actors. Jordan and Thomson have such an amazing chemistry that I really believe they’re real couple. Mid way through the film, they both shared a dialog free and heartbreaking scene that almost made me tear up with them. Stallone could play Rocky in his sleep. He’s more of side character this time around, but he’s always great when he’s on screen. I really enjoy his chemistry with Jordan. Both Lundgren and Munteanu didn’t get a lot of screen time but I thought they delivered a pretty decent performance.
I’ve seen this film twice now and I feel like it’s as good as the first one. I gave that film 4.5 stars but I’m giving this one half a star less mostly because there’s nothing new we haven’t seen before and it’s predictable. But it’s well made and I truly loved the performances by the three leads. If there’s another film, I’m pretty sure a third Creed film will get made, let’s hope they come up with a more refreshing storyline like the first one.
So have you seen CREED II? Well, what did you think?
When I first saw the post on Wendell’s blog about the Acting Black Blogathon, somehow my first inclination is to write about Wesley Snipes.
I know there are a ton of other great Black actors I admire – Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, etc. but I watched an interview w/ Mr. Snipes recently, when he was promoting his NBC show The Player (which I still might watch just for Snipes), and I was struck by how affable, charismatic and humble he is. Thankfully he got a second leash on his career after being imprisoned for tax fraud (he was sentenced on April 24, 2008) and he came back a wiser man instead of being a bitter recluse.
It reminded me how much I enjoyed watching him as an actor. He may not be an Oscar caliber performer like Denzel but he’s got immense charisma. Though he’s mostly known for his action movies, I actually like him in dramatic roles as well, which I think he should do more of. In fact, I think he’s typecast for being the tough-guy-with-a-heart but I think he’s capable for gfLooking at his resume, there are some films of his I still need to see, i.e. The Fan, The Art of War, Unstoppable, and his most recent, Chi-Raq by Spike Lee. His career definitely peaked in the 90s, hence most of my fave movies of his are from that decade.
So here are five of my favorite Wesley Snipes roles that I’ve seen so far:
1. Blade (1998)
Before Kate Beckinsale became a sexy vampire warrior in Underworld and those emo, sparkly Twilight vampires that reportedly Snipes himself wanted to hunt down, we’ve got an uber cool, genuinely bad ass vampire hybrid. I mean, even his moniker alone sounds cool and dangerous. Deadpool is definitely NOT the first R-rated comic-book movie out there, and I remember this movie was filled w/ some bloody action scenes, just what one would expect from a vampire hunter movie. I love the look of Blade here, his uniform, his sunglasses, even his ride (1968 Dodge Charger). But it’s Snipes as the half human/half bloodsucker who’s the star here, oozing such swagger and quiet grace as the unlikely hero worth rooting for. I also like Kris Kristofferson as his mentor, who some reviewers mentioned as having that Obi-Wan quality. I for one would love to see Blade 4 at some point. Heck, why not? Especially since R-rated comic-book flicks are back in fashion again now.
2. Waiting to Exhale (1995)
For some reason his role wasn’t credited in the film, but I always remember Snipes in a brief role as James Wheeler. From the moment he appeared at a bar, approaching Angela Bassett’s character who just went through a divorce, I immediately like his character. I wish he’d do more dramatic films, even a romantic drama, as he certainly can pull off the romantic hero role. I love this film by Forest Whitaker, which I’ve rewatched a few times. Some of my fave roles are the ones of Snipes and Bassett. There’s a scene of them in a hotel room. “Lets make tonight beautiful” Snipes’ character said, which would’ve been ultra cheesy in a Nicholas Sparks’ movie, but here it’s poignant because it wasn’t sexual. It was two people who’ve been through some tough times (divorce, deceased spouse) who found a soulful connection. It was a genuinely intimate moment that’s rarely seen in cinema, it still moved me to this day.
3. Rising Sun (1993)
It’s been ages since I saw this but I remember really liking this thriller based on Michael Crichton’s novel. In fact, I might give it a rewatch at some point. I like the pairing of him w/ Sean Connery as the Japanese expert, which is funny when I think about it as he ludicrously tried to pass as a Japanese in the Bond movie You Only Live Twice. Some people say there’s an awkward chemistry between these two, but I think the fact that they had such different background, it’s to be expected and works well as a cultural thriller. It’s not quite a buddy-cop type movie, but the interplay between Snipes and Connery are more fun to watch than the action. I think Snipes held his own against his older & wiser co-star. Both are immensely watchable, and the mystery aspect was pretty intriguing.
4. Passenger 57 (1992)
I read this article about actors who deserve a Taken-style comeback and it included Mr. Snipes. Heck, I think Snipes was one of the action stars who popularized the reluctant hero roles, those who minded their own business but ended up being dragged into some violent predicaments.
I LOVE Snipes as John Cutter, a hard-working anti-terrorist agent who boarded a plane with an international terrorist under FBI custody. I’m sure Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop is partly inspired by this w/ the action hero playing an air marshal no less. It’s interesting that because of the color of his skin, he’s not immediately believed to be the good guy who’s trying to save everyone. I think that adds a certain an intriguing edge than if the role were to be played by white action stars like Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, etc. Bruce Payne is pretty darn scary too as the villain, he reminds me a bit of Hans Gruber here and of course he’s also a Brit.
5. Demolition Man (1993)
Snipes has played a fair share of good guys and law enforcement types, so it’s nice to see him relishing at being bad. With platinum blond Afro & half blue eyes no less! He played Simon Phoenix, a convicted crime lord who’s revived for a parole hearing well into the 21st century. Of course he immediately resumes his murderous rampage, with no one to stop him, except Sly Stallone of course, who else? Sandra Bullock is quite memorable here too in one of her earlier action roles. Yes this is a pretty cheesy action flick of the 90s but heck I enjoyed it, and I still remember that epic death scene at the end! Liquid nitrogen anyone? Snipes was deliciously over the top here with his manic energy. It’s definitely one of the most fun 90’s sci-fi action flicks.
Normally I’m excited for Oscar nominations, but this year it was overshadowed by a couple of things that happen around the same time. Just before I went to bed last night I heard news of terrorist attacks in my homeland Jakarta in multiple locations. One of the first bombs that went off was so close to my two nieces’ schools!! I immediately texted my brother and he was right in the middle of picking up his three girls from two different schools. Thank God they’re ok. It’s truly a scary world we live in.
And then of course in the morning I heard of the passing of one of my all time favorite actor Alan Rickman 😦 My heart is heavy. I shall do a tribute for Mr. Rickman this weekend.
Ok, well I suppose life must go on. So here’s my thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards nominations…
Same like last year, I didn’t make a post of my nomination predictions this year, I only tweeted who’d be nominated for Best Picture and a few other categories. Well, I guessed correctly that it’d be 8 nominations, but apparently I got two wrong, but the two films that did get in were two I really like.
• YES, prayer answered!! Thrilled to see Mad Max: Fury Roadnearly swept the Oscars with 10 nominations! I love hearing its name mentioned over and over as I was listening to it this morning [happy dance] 2 nominations short compared to The Revenant… and both starred Tom Hardy! 😀
• Happy to see George Miller amongst Best Director nod, yes!!!!
• Speaking of the British hottie – YAY for Tom Hardy getting an acting nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Revenant, woo hoo!!
• YAY for Spotlight! My #2 film of the year will probably be the biggest competition to The Revenant this year.
• Nice seeing Batman and Bane both getting nominations 😉 Their roles couldn’t be more different, and their names were announced one after another this morning, too!
Both Christian Bale & Tom Hardy are the best actors of their generation, they’re such chameleons who look so different from film to film. …
• YAY for Saoirse Ronan amongst the Best Actress nominees! I’m rooting for her even though I think it’s going to be down to Cate Blanchett vs Brie Larson this year.
• YAY for Sly Stallone too!
I had mentioned in my Creed review that it’d be interesting (and awesome!) if he did end up being nominated for an Oscar, as he did in 1976 for the first Rocky film. I’d think would mark some kind of record that the same actor is nominated twice playing the exact same role. … • Congrats Leo!! I surely believe this is his year. I mean, The Revenant swept the Oscars with 12 nominations and the Best Actor race is arguably not as strong as in previous years and amongst Cranston, Damon, Fassbender and Redmayne, I think DiCaprio is the frontrunner and if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on him.
• Now, if you think Leo is the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, heh he’s got nothing on Roger Deakins! He’s been nominated 13 times, and every single one has been amazing too which adds even more insult to injury! Cinematography golden boy Emmanuel Lubezki’s nominated again and considered the frontrunner, but he’s got TWO Oscars in the bag two years in a row. Come on Academy, stop yanking Mr. Deakins’ chain and get him his overdue Oscar!
• The only one I haven’t seen out of this list is Straight Outta Compton. YAY for Ex Machina and Spotlight, quite surprised to see Inside Out and Bridge of Spies here, but both are very good films.
• This is perhaps the rare year where I’ve seen ALL of the supporting actor nominees and I agree with ALL of the Best Supporting Actor nominations. It’s a pleasant surprise to see an acting nominee from Spotlight, and Mark Ruffalo did get one of the showiest roles in the ensemble. … • I’m glad to see Cartel Land and The Look of Silence shortlisted in the Best Documentary category ! Now I haven’t seen the other four that are nominated so I can’t say who’s most deserving, but what Joshua Oppenheimer did with The Act of Killing was astounding, so no doubt he did an equally brilliant job with its follow-up doc.
… • Lots of GREAT composers amongst the Best Score nominees, wow! I mean Ennio Morricone and John Williams are practically legends. Now, Mr. Morricone is yet another ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ nominee with 5 previous nominations, let’s hope this is his year also! …
• Well, I think the hashtag #OscarSoWhite will be trending again this year [shrug].
Here’s what the 20 acting nominees look like this year:
Another bad year for diversity. Just like last year, NONE of the acting nominees consist of an actor/actress of color 😦
My daily industry news reading led me to this reaction post by Variety:
But the most disappointing outcome is that, for the second consecutive year, all 20 of the acting nominees are white. No Michael B. Jordan or Tessa Thompson for “Creed”? No Idris Elba or Abraham Attah for “Beasts of No Nation”? No Will Smith for “Concussion”? And despite a best picture nomination, the cast of “Straight Outta Compton” was all shut out. No doubt, yet another year of an all-white Oscars, which is being widely criticized on Twitter, will be addressed by host Chris Rock at the Feb. 28 telecast.
• I was convinced to see Idris Elba‘s name on the list for Beasts Of No Nation, which from what I’ve read should’ve been recognized here. I think Michael B. Jordan was a very strong performer as well in Creed, though I think the Leading Actor category is more crowded than the Supporting one, so Elba surely had a much better shot and it’d be a deserving nomination too, not just to fill a diversity quota!
• Bummed to see Charlize Theron overlooked once again in Mad Max: Fury Road😦
For some reason there’s no love for Emily Bluntin Sicario. I’m sooooo tired of seeing Jennifer Lawrence, she’s nominated AGAIN this year, sheesh! I sure hope she won’t win this time! …
• Not a good year for female talents either it seems. Only ONE female filmmaker gets a nod this year, that is Deniz Gamze Ergüven who directed the French-film Mustang. It sounds similar to Girlhood which is in my top 10 of the year (also a French film directed by a woman) so I should check it out!
The buzz for Suffragette by Sarah Gavron seems to have sizzled before it even opened in major cities. I also heard tons of great buzz for The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Marielle Heller and got plenty of Critics and Film Festival noms, but it was overlooked by both Golden Globes and Oscars. Apparently 36% of Sundance Film Competition was directed by women according to Indiewire, well that sure sounds like a heck of a lot when female filmmakers are largely absent from major awards.
• Two actors who seem to have been overlooked are Paul Dano in Love & Mercy and Jason Siegel in The End of the Tour. I’ve only seen the latter and thought that Siegel did an excellent performance as David Foster Wallace.
• Ok now, Writing’s On the Wall for Best Original Song?? REALLY?? Heh, I think the melody of the song is nice but gah, I can’t stand Sam Smith’s whiny voice and now it sounds like we’d all have to listen to him sing at the Oscars ceremony! Of ALL the years to recognize a Bond song, the Academy chose the most-maligned one that sounds more like writhing on the wall.
• The comedy/musical category is the most baffling thing about the Golden Globes but Oscar’s most baffling category is the downgrading of actors’ role prominence. As in the case with Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl. Anyway you look at it, her role is a lead more than a supporting, but she’s nominated in the Supporting Actress category.
• Where’s Oscar Isaac?? No offense Mark Ruffalo, I think he’s an excellent actor but as much as I love Spotlightas a film, I feel like I’d rather see Oscar Isaac in Ex Machinawho’s sooo much more memorable. Ah well, at least we have this awesome dance sequence to console us 😉
• Oh and I never thought I’d say this but I’d have loved to seeKristen Stewartgets a nod for her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria. She became the first American actress to win a César Award in the role. I think she gave a far stronger performance than Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. Ok it sounds like I’m ripping Spotlight but I’m not, and if the two acting nods increase its chances to win Best Picture, then I guess I’m happy about that. But still it’s baffling that McAdams get a nod whilst Michael Keaton‘s left out. …
• Last but not least, poor Sir Ridley Scott!
The four-time Oscar nominees is overlooked despite his best directing effort in years. The Martian was a return to form for the 78-year-old filmmaker. Heh, let’s hope he gets another shot again as he’s no spring chicken.
The 88th Academy Awards will air on February 28 on ABC.
Well, that’s my reaction to the 2016 nominations. What are your Oscar-related delights and gripes? …
I had trepidation about seeing this film as I’ve only seen one Rocky film and I’m not really a boxing movie fan. But my hubby really wanted to see it, and so we went and am I glad I did. Here’s our review:
Doing a spinoff of a franchise that hasn’t been a box office hit for long time could be risky but somehow director/writer Ryan Coogler was able to convince not only the studio executives but its star Sly Stallone to revive this once box office gold of a franchise. What’s even more surprising was how good the film turn out to be and it’s one of favorite films of the year.
Adonis Johnson/Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is a young man who wants to be professional boxer; he found out early in the story that his late father was a fame-boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Creed’s widow Mary (Phylicia Rashad) took in the young Adonis and raised him as her own son. Unlike other boxers who needed to box in order to make a living, Andonis grew up in a privilege lifestyle but he yearns to be a boxer. Even a promotion at his corporate job won’t keep him from pursuing his dreams. So he quit his job, moved to Philly and tried his hands at a professional level boxing. But after he got beat badly in a “friendly” bout, he realized he’s not ready and asked Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. Rocky has walked away from the ring after his last victory match and never wants to be back. He’s now happily running his Italian restaurant.
But the young Creed is persistent and wants to create his own image, he doesn’t want to be known as the son of the great Apollo Creed. He even found time to romance a local musician named Bianca (Tessa Thompson). The story of this film is similar to that of the original Rocky, it’s about an underdog who’s determined to be the best. The film features the usual training montage, great fight sequences and fans of the franchise will happy to know that we do get to hear that famous Rocky’s theme. But Creed does have his own theme though.
The performances by the leads were quite excellent. Jordan excels in his first leading role; his fierce demeanor is very similar to that of Weathers’ Creed from earlier films. Thompson’s Bianca is not just another pretty face love interest, she has her own ambitions and chemistry between her and Jordan were quite believable. The person who steals the show for me though is Rocky himself. Here I think Sly gave maybe his best performance of his career. Rocky is now an old man and he realized he doesn’t have much in life; all of the people he cared about are all gone. By training the young Creed, he can have a family again and maybe have one last glory as a trainer to a champ. I won’t be surprised if Stallone gets an Oscar nomination.
I’ve never seen any of Coogler’s previous films but after this one, I’ll have to check out his work. I was surprised how well he put this picture together; I was involved in the story from beginning to end. He even shot a single take for one of the boxing matches in the film; it’s an incredible sequence. What really impresses me was the way he’s able to blend in the nostalgic feel of the earlier films and then injects some 21st century style into this film. He’s a real talent and I’m looking forward to his next film.
Creed is a great spinoff/reboot of a once popular franchise. It contains great performances, tight direction and reminds you to never give up your dreams. I can’t wait to see the next chapter in Creed’s pursue of becoming the best boxer in the world.
There has been far too many reboots and spin-offs and more often than not, it’s just a money-making scheme. But once in a while, emerged a gem that actually earns its merit and Creed is no doubt one of them.
Though I’ve only seen one Rocky film, I read a little bit about the friendship of Rocky and Apollo Creed, the father of the film’s protagonist, and it certainly helped me understand the story better. The film began with a brief but meaningful introduction of Adonis, who clearly has his father’s talent, as well as ambition as a boxer. Determined to make his mark in the sport, Adonis moved to Philadelphia. He ended up finding an aging Rocky Balboa at his restaurant, naturally named after his beloved wife Adrian. It’s a memorable scene that promises great things to come from this eventual mentorship.
The relationship between these two is the heart of the film and filmmaker Ryan Coogler is wise to keep that be the focus of the film. He didn’t squander it by over-complicating things or adding unnecessary subplots, and that’s largely why the film worked so well. There’s an effortless chemistry between Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan almost straight away. There’s an interesting banter between the two that’s funny and heartfelt, and it gets even better as the film goes on.
One of Adonis’ journey involves a love story with a beautiful up-and-coming singer Bianca (Tessa Thomson), but I’m glad she’s given an intriguing character arc and not simply just a ‘pretty girlfriend’ role. Yet the film paid more attention to Adonis’ relationship with Rocky, which ultimately is what the film is all about. Most of conversation takes place during training and it certainly will please people who love boxing and boxing films. But even for someone like me, I find those scenes extremely dynamic and entertaining.
Much had been made about Stallone’s excellent performance and you know what, it lived up to the hype. It’d be interesting if he did end up being nominated for an Oscar, as he did in 1976 for the first Rocky film. I’d think would mark some kind of record that the same actor is nominated twice playing the exact same role. He’s definitely my pick to win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. He obviously had lived and breathed this role for many years, and if this were to be his swan song to the franchise, well he couldn’t have left on a higher note. His performance is convincingly heartfelt, showing a gentler, wiser and more vulnerable Rocky who thinks he’s got nothing much to live for anymore. What started out as a mentorship slowly builds into a genuine friendship between him and Adonis, and they both end up helping each other when they need it most.
For a boxing film, the film isn’t graphically violent. There are basically only two major fight sequences but both are done VERY well. There’s one that was done in a single take and it was quite a scene to behold. Real-life professional boxers Andre Ward and Tony Bellew play two of Adonis’ oponents which adds a touch of authenticity to the scenes. The script by Coogler and Aaron Covington have a wonderful balance of humor and emotional touches, which honors the original Rocky story that breathes life into the new hero. But nostalgia could only work so much and so it’s wise that Coogler didn’t drown the film with it and lets it stand on its own merit. Even its use of the Rocky theme is perfect, it’s brief but it came just at the right moment.
Ultimately this is Jordan’s film and he’s certainly perfect in the role. He’s reunited with Coogler who directed him in Fruitvale Station. I haven’t seen that one yet but clearly this has been quite an erm, fruitful collaboration between the two and I look forward to seeing more from both of them, together or separately. This movie is such a pleasant surprise of the year, an entertaining as well as inspiring film that should please loyal fans and win new ones.
Tonight I’m going to a screening of 3 Days to Kill. Yes the trailer looks ridiculous and the director is McG so the likelihood of this being good is pretty slim. But y’know what, I’m still going to see it for the nostalgia factor as I quite like Kevin Costner as an action hero, whom I first saw in a spy thriller No Way Out in the late 80s. I’m dating myself here, but those who grew up in the 80s like I did likely remember these stars in their prime. Costner’s getting a career resurgence since winning a Golden Globe for his performance in the TV miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Interestingly, he’s only one of a slew of 80s/90s movie stars who’re still in demand in today’s movies.
In fact, within a week of each other, 59-year-old Costner and 61-year-old Liam Neeson have a new movie coming out with each of them getting top billing. Both are action movies, which seem to be the genre these old, err seasoned movie stars get hired for, strangely enough. I just came across this NY Post article last night where I read about Neeson’s reaction why he took those action roles: “Because they’re dumb enough to offer them to me … It’s like, I’m 61 years of age. I mean, come on. It’s a joke. It’s like [mimes talking into phone], ‘How much? OK, I’ll be there.’” Ahah, you gotta love his honesty!
But hey, there are economic reasons why Hollywood would rather offer action roles to familiar names. That NY Post article also talked about how foreign audiences actually love ‘stars of immediate past’ and the universal appeal of an action adventure is easier to market than a decidedly more culturally-relevant comedy or drama. The Expendables 2 only grossed $85 mil domestically but made well over $200 mil in foreign markets total. Even the relative dud like Escape Plan with Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger which only earned a paltry $25 mil here in the US made over $100 mil in foreign markets. So they may be old but certainly not flat-lined yet at the box office.
There’s practically a new sub-genre of *aging stars in action* movies with a cast that pride themselves of being older, wiser and still very much bad ass. It has spun several successful franchises like Taken (Neeson’s vehicle), RED aka Retired Extremely Dangerous (Bruce Willis’ vehicle) and The Expendables, kick-started by Sly himself, easily one of THE biggest action heroes of all time, and starring the who’s who of 80s & 90s action.
The Expendables‘ strong point is truly in the cast [I’ve seen the first film, it’s definitely NOT the script] and the possibilities seem endless. If you’re somewhat famous in the 90s and can still walk properly without a cane, there’s a chance Sly’d offer you a role [that is if you didn’t demand $1 mil/per day pay check like Bruce Willis]. It turns out he IS expendable after all ahah, though he’s not exactly running out of work. This Summer he’s reprising his role as detective in Sin City 2, which guess what, opens just a week after Expendables 3 😀
So long as the demand is there, I think we can expect relative *young’uns* like Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp, who are in the early 50s or will hit it this year, would be around for at least another decade or so.
So what do you think folks? Do you wish these aging stars would retire already or are you loving the perpetual trend of aging stars in action?
De Niro and Stallone seems to have a new movie opening every month lately don’t they? Both are their 70s and still going strong, while most of their piers either doing TV shows or take a supporting role in other big films. For example, all of Harrison Ford’s films this year, he played a secondary character, not the lead.
In this new boxing comedy, De Niro and Stallone stars as rival boxers, you can say it’s Rocky vs. La Motta. The film starts out with a flashback of the boxers in their prime, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp are two of the best boxers in the world back in the early 80s. They’ve both fought one another and hate each other’s guts. After their last fight, which Sharp defeated McDonnen, Sharp decided to walk away from boxing. McDonnen wants a rematch but Sharp refuse to fight him again. BTW, these flashback scenes included another bad CGI effects of making the actors look younger, think of the “young” Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy, Hollywood should stop doing this because it looks weird and fake. Flash forward to present day, Sharp is now working at a factory in Pittsburg, he lives in a crappy house and doesn’t have any family, he just takes care of his trainer Lightning (Alan Arkin), who’s living in the home for the elders. McDonnen on the other hand, he’s more successful, he owns a bar and runs a couple of car dealerships in the city. He also still living like a bachelor, he drinks and sleeps with women more than half his age.
One day the son of Sharp’s former promoter, Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), shows up at Sharp’s home and tells him he found a way for both of them to make big money. Dante’s not doing well either and wants to be a boxing promoter like his father. Apparently a video game company wants to create a new boxing game and wants Sharp’s to be part of it. Knowing he needs money to pay for the bills that he’s way behind on, he agreed. When he showed up at the video game company to have his body captured for the game, McDonnen was also invited to be part of the game. Of course since these two don’t like one another, they ended up throwing punches and a bunch of people recorded the fight and it went viral online. It received millions of views on YouTube and made the news on Sports Center. Taking advantage of their new found fame, Slate Jr. convinced both of them pick up their gloves and go in the ring for a rematch. After the announcement that these two aging boxers are going back to the ring made national news, Sharp’s ex-girlfriend, Sally Rose (Kim Basinger), shows up and wants to rekindle their relationship. But Sharp’s not interested in seeing her, she slept with McDonnen years ago and got pregnant. At the same time, a young man named B.J., (Jon Bernthal, Shane from The Walking Dead), showed up at a gym where McDonnen was training and tells McDodden that he’s his son. Since he’s never been a father, McDonnen didn’t really know how to act but B.J. told him he didn’t want anything from him, just wanted him to know that he exists.
I know the marketing for this movie made it look like it’s all about De Niro’s and Stallone’s character training for the big fight. But it’s really about the redemption for these two men who’ve made mistakes in their younger years and now they’re trying to right what they did wrong. Of course there are scenes of them training and getting ready for the rematch, there were some nods to their classic films Rocky and Raging Bull.
I thought the performances by the actors were pretty good, De Niro looked like he had a blast playing the reckless fighter and Stallone was surprisingly effective in his role, yeah he’s pretty much playing Rocky again but he’s Rocky to many people so that’s fine by me. Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin provided the humor in the film, in fact I though Arkin stole every scenes he appeared in. Basinger did a good job of playing the “love interest” in the movie and Jon Burnthal was very good in his role. If he gets to do more films, he could be someone to watch out for, I know he’s done mostly TV work.
Director Peter Segal kept everything light, nothing was over the top and the pacing was good. I’m sure it wasn’t easy making a movie where there’s no villain and have people cheering for both of the leads. The final climatic fight scene was well staged, although De Niro looked way too out of shape but again he’s in his 70s so he did the best he could.
I don’t really have anything negative to say about this movie, it’s a heartwarming story that will entertain fans of the leads and you’ll have some good laughs. The movie never took itself too seriously and as long as you don’t go into it with huge expectations, you’ll have a good time.
What do you think of Grudge Match and the pairing of Sly and De Niro?
Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the box office throughout the 80s and most of the 90s but have never shared a screen together until they appeared in the two Expendables films. But Arnold’s appearance was more of a cameo in those films, now finally the two action hero icons are together for the first time in a prison set action thriller that reminded me of Lock Up, Tango & Cash and John Woo’s Face/Off.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a structural-security expert, what he does is basically pretends to be an inmate in some of the highly secured federal prisons in the country, he breaks out and tells the warden that his prison has security flaws. So after another successful breakout to start the film, Breslin and teammates which includes his partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), his lover Abigail Ross (Amy Ryan) and a computer hacker expert Hush (Curtis Jack aka 50 Cents), were approached by a CIA lawyer named Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) for another big project. Miller wants Breslin to go into a highly secured prison known as The Tomb, a place so highly secured that not even the US government knows about it. Miller suspects that there are some security flaws and wants Breslin to find them. Breslin and his team were hesitant at first since they fear it might not be safe for him to go there but when Miller offered a payday of $5mil, they all said yes.
Once Breslin arrived at The Tomb, he realized he’s in over head and have to deal with the sinister warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his right hand man Drake (Vinnie Jones). Knowing that he might not be able to get out, he decided to partner up with another inmate named Emil Rottmayer (Arnie), it seems Rottmayer has something that Hobbes wants but he refuses to give it to him. Most of the movie took place at the prison and both Breslin and Rottmayer are trying to figure a way to escape the place. I think anyone who have seen prison set action thrillers in the past will know what you’re getting into. Expect to see lots of fist fights, shootouts and big explosions. Originally the film was called The Tomb and was supposed to open back in August but with the box office failures of The Last Stand and Bullets to the Head, the studio decided to push the release date back to the less crowded fall season. I think it’s a good decision to change the title since The Tomb sounded like a movie about super natural or something.
Since this is a film starring two of the biggest action heroes, you don’t expect to see any Oscar caliber performances here. And I thought Sly and Arnold did a great job of playing their roles, Sly did try to be this super smart kind of person but of course he’s still Sly aka Rambo aka Rocky to me. As for The Terminator, he appears to have a great time playing his part, he’s sort of the side kick to Sly’s character. Some people in the crowd at the screening I went to actually started cheering when the two started kicking ass and shooting down bad guys. Caviezel was convincing as the main villain but again he’s the usual one-dimensional character in an action flick so don’t expect much from him. As for the rest of the cast, well they didn’t have much to do, just fillers. Although I think 50 Cents needs to take some more acting classes since he seems to just have one facial reaction throughout the movie.
Swedish director Mikael Håfström did a good job with the pacing, there’s no slow moment in the film that you may have to look at your watch. I did like the way he shot the action scenes, no shaky cam or fast editing which always a big plus for me, as most of you know most action films today seems to go overboard those shaky cam sequences. But I did think he should’ve staged some of the shootout scenes with more creativity, there’s too much standard shootouts that we’ve seen way too many times in the past but they’re still fun to watch. Since this is an R-rated movie, there’s blood, torture and of course lots of f-bombs.
I’m a huge fan of both Sly and Arnold so to finally see them teamed in a big action picture, it’s a real treat. If you’re a fan of both then you’ll likely enjoy this movie too. It’s pure fun and you won’t be disappointed by spending an hour and a half in the theater.
3 out of 5 reels
What do you think of Escape Plan and the pairing of Sly and Arnie?