After a computer-generated matchup between current heavyweight champion Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Antonio Tarver) and ex-champ Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) puts Balboa as the winner. Dixon’s people look to make the match a reality. Meanwhile Rocky’s looking for a way to process his grief and decides to come out of retirement to try and find some purpose – even if that means he’ll face an opponent who’s faster, stronger and thirty years his junior.
Maybe it’s because I’ve watched all the previous Rocky films so close together but Rocky Balboa did get me a bit emotional a couple of times. Where we see Rocky now at this stage of his life just feels right for the character. He’s still grieving for his beloved Adrian and it becomes clear that he hasn’t even started processing his feelings and grief even though she’s been gone a few years now. Stallone is wonderful in the scenes by her grave and when talking to Paulie (Burt Young) about his memories of her.
Rocky’s got his own restaurant and has a decent life for himself even if he’s not as close to his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) as he’d like. Their relationship was interesting and not what I was expecting because there’s a lot of love there, it’s just Robert doesn’t know how to step out of his father’s shadow.
A trope I tend to love is unlikely friendships, especially when the two friends are different generations or genders and Rocky Balboa surprised me by having that. Rocky meets bartender Marie (Geraldine Hughes) and their friendship is really sweet, especially when Rocky is up front about not being over his wife and Marie wasn’t expecting anything like that anyway. It was a fresh dynamic compared to the familial relationships Rocky already has and worked really well.
The final fight in Rocky Balboa is one of my favourites in the series. Just how it’s shot and edited together, along with moments that are in black and white with just a pop of red for either fighter’s blood was so cool and engaging and made it stand out after seeing a bunch of other Rocky fights very recently.
Rocky Balboa is about an aging fighter battling with his emotions and still putting on one hell of a fight in the ring. Obviously there’s the Creed films where you get to see more of Rocky and how his life turned out, but even if you didn’t I think this is a wonderful place to leave the character. He gets one last hurrah and is surrounded by those he cares about which is all anyone like Rocky could want. 5/5.