It's a little annoying that this high-concept marketing project (Rocky vs Raging Bull!) is as entertaining as it is: we want to hate it, as tired actors are sending up their own faded images. But while the script never even tries to be something interesting, it at least gives the stars some engaging scenes to work with. And we can't help but cheer for them in the end.
The film stars with a bit of history (and digital trickery), as young bucks Henry "Razor" Sharp and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (Stallone and De Niro) battle it out back in 1982. Local fans in Pittsburgh are divided between them and are hugely disappointed when, at the peak of their fame, Razor suddenly retires before a climactic rematch. Now some 30 years later, a young promoter (Hart) decides to finally get them back together in the ring. But this stirs up an old feud involving Kid's affair with Razor's wife Sally (Basinger), which resulted in a son BJ (Bernthal), who's now a father himself. Can these two men possibly work together to promote their epic grudge match?
Silly question. Of course they start off gruffly snarling at each other but eventually find the expected mutual respect. And that's about the extent of the acting required of these two iconic stars. Add some fast-talking comedy from Hart, veteran battiness from Arkin, steely femininity from Basinger and soulfulness from Bernthal and the film at least has a veneer of complexity. But aside from wondering whether the filmmakers will fudge the final match so no one loses (they don't), there isn't much to worry about.
Continue reading: Grudge Match Review
Thirteen Days is the film in question -- and unlike staff writer James Brundage I felt the film was a truly powerful one, an eye-opening dissection of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a sobering study of how close we came to annihialation during the Cold War, and a peek behind the scenes of detente. An excellent companion to another (even better) Kevin Costner vehicle, Oliver Stone's JFK, Thirteen Days is not an actor's showcase like JFK is, but rather lets its story do the telling, taking us behind the scenes as decisions with cascading consequences are made. To be sure, Roger Donaldson was likely a poor choice as director -- his arbitrary use of black and white vs. color, his heavy-handedness in glorifying Kennedy at every turn, and his preachy doomsaying all wear a bit thin. But even he can't ruin the film completely.
Continue reading: Thirteen Days Review
I don't know about you, but whenever I hear Kevin Costner is coming out with another two-hour-plus epic drama, I have a Pavlovian reaction of raging skepticism. After all, this man was the driving force behind "Waterworld" and "The Postman," not to mention the lengthy, maudlin romances "For the Love of the Game" and "Message In a Bottle."
So I admit I went in to "Thirteen Days" -- not only another Costner epic but another Costner revisionist history epic centering around John F. Kennedy -- expecting to cringe my way through it and subconsciously (?) looking for gaffes.
At first there were signs the film might live down to my expectations, like the title sequence's generically ominous stock footage of mushroom clouds and Costner's awk-cent, which begins as more Elmer Fudd than Kennedy compound before he eases into a smooth vocal rhythm. But within 10 minutes I was completely wrapped up in this fly-on-the-wall, pressure-cooker dramatization of what went down at the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Continue reading: Thirteen Days Review
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