With the release of Rocky Balboa in the UK on 19 January, I thought I’d take a look at the five preceding films. Yes, believe it or not, Rocky Balboa is the sixth.
Seems like a lot doesn’t it? Well the original was released in 1976 and won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film editing as well as seven other nominations including two for Sylvester Stallone as writer and actor. So it must be a good film?
Well it is, but it’s not as good as I remember. Don’t get me wrong, Sly is fantastic in it, the story seems predictable but isn’t, the supporting actors are great and it has a gritty, realistic feel which is lacking from the later ‘Rockys’. It’s just that it’s a product of it’s time. Admittedly I was watching it on VHS so the picture quality was poor, but it’s more the pacing than the picture. It was a lot slower than I remember and I found myself crying out for the training montage (see below for the video). It’s probably the best bit in the film (apart from the end), when he jumps up those last steps with ease you can’t help but smile.
That’s a bit harsh, the acting is probably the best thing in the movie. It’s hard to differentiate Sylvester Stallone the actor and Rocky the character, and that’s a credit to him. It really is a great performance and with the support of Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young and even Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed the film has an emotional weight that hooks in the viewer.
I’m so used to fast editing and cutting that I found the pacing slow and was urging to hurry up and get to Apollo Creed’s challenge. If you didn’t know it, the basic story is that the heavyweight champion’s opponent pulls out so they pick a lowly fighter to box him in an ‘American dream’ style. Instead of getting the easy fight, Apollo gets Rocky.
But Rocky’s not about boxing, it’s about a man who’s wasting his talent working as a ‘heavy’ to a loan shark but is uncomfortable with hurting people. He is trying to woo a girl and basically get through life as quietly as he can, but fate pushes him into the limelight.
Stallone has said that the sixth and final film could be watched back to back with the original and they stand as two bookends. However I’m also interested in what’s inbetween. Onwards to Rocky IIâ€¦.. what’s the betting I’ve bought the soundtrack by the end of the fourth?