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.
Recently retired from fighting due to the risk to his health, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) takes on Mickey’s old boxing gym and begins to train Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), an up-and-coming boxer with a lot of potential. Rocky’s focus on Tommy though begins to put his personal life at risk.
The scenes of Rocky V with Rocky’s shaking hands and then him and Adrian (Talia Shire) receiving his prognosis about his brain injuries are brilliant. The opening especially is a chance to see Rocky vulnerable in a way we’d not seen before and showed how strong his and Adrian’s relationship is. With that setup it’s easy to presume that Rocky V will go a more serious and different route to we’ve seen before in this series so it’s then a shame that his ill health is barely mentioned again and doesn’t have a real impact on the plot.
Instead, you have Rocky taking in Tommy, and putting all his focus and love on him as they share the love and skills for boxing, while ignoring his son. It’s easy to see why Rocky is like this at least to begin with but his family has seemingly always meant more to him than boxing or titles so it’s not enjoyable seeing him put someone he’s just met onto a pedestal to the detriment to his loved ones.
While the Rocky films have always been underdog stories, often showing the tough life Rocky has had, they’ve also always had some fun to them. Rocky V doesn’t have that fun element. Too much of it is a downer on Rocky and his family. They lose their house and money, Rocky Jr. (Sage Stallone) feels replaced in his father’s eyes by Tommy, and Rocky struggles to balance his love for the sport and his love for his family. And Paulie (Burt Young) is continuing to be his cantankerous and somewhat irresponsible self.
Sylvester Stallone still gives a great performance and is probably the thing that kept me somewhat interested throughout this slog of a film. I’ve seriously been impressed with him when watching this franchise as I’ve always been under the impression that he may give the odd great performance but generally isn’t a good actor. Overall, Rocky V is just very predictable and not that exciting, Stallone’s performance and the final fight are the only worthwhile things about this film and even then, it feels like that’s being quite generous. 2/5.
After Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a highly intimidating Soviet athlete, kills Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in an exhibition match, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) comes to the heart of Russia for revenge.
Even though Rocky’s driving force is the loss of his friend which is obviously a big deal, Rocky IV feels goofier than the previous films. It doesn’t really help that there’s a talking robot in the Balboa household which is probably the most 80s and out of place thing they could’ve added to this series.
Considering Rocky’s reaction and emotional fallout in losing Mickey (Burgess Meredith), his reaction to Creed’s death and his perceived role in it is a lot more muted. Creed’s death doesn’t have the big emotional impact that it should do and then the rest of the film never really recovers from that.
I love a good montage as much as anyone but in Rocky IV it feels like they didn’t have enough character work or a strong narrative to make a decent film and instead just filled up the runtime with montages. There are two training montages back-to-back and are purely split up by one scene of Rocky and Adrian (Talia Shire) having a conversation and then it’s back to the training montage. There’s also a montage to song “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper while Rocky is driving and it’s all footage of the previous three films. Perhaps if I hadn’t watched these films in quick succession it wouldn’t have felt so redundant but even then though it begins with Rocky reminiscing about the evolution of his and Apollo’s relationship, it ends up being a highlights reel of everything that happened in the previous films. Not too sure what they were going for there.
The fights between Drago and Apollo, and Drago and Rocky are still pretty good. The framing of how much larger Lundgren is than both Weathers and Stallone is really good. It especially works with Stallone as he’s the leanest of the three and the reach of Lundgren’s arm is so big that it’s hard for Stallone to get close to him. The camerawork definitely paints the David vs Goliath picture well.
Overall, Rocky IV is a bit sillier than its predecessors and doesn’t really have the emotional weight it should have. The fights are still engaging though and Rocky and Adrian’s relationship is still one of my favourite things about this series and Paulie (Burt Young) is one of the worst. 3/5.