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.