This time, I’ve taken a go at reviewing Rocky Balboa. After the suggestions from the review I did of Bobby, I’ve tried to liven it up a bit. And hurt myself in the process.
As with last time I’ve uploaded it to various sites and the links are below. People at Break seem to love it once again…
As promised, here’s a treat for Rocky fans – Sylvester Stallone in conversation with himself!!
How did we get to this? Oh yes, I remember the five other films now. They reckon you can watch just the first Rocky and then this one, but that doesn’t do it justice. You need to remember that he was heavyweight champion of the world – twice so Rocky II and III are needed and then how he lost all his money (Rocky V) so I suppose you could miss out IV but it’s a cracker so I wouldn’t.
In fact this film has a bit in common with the fourth instalment as they’re both blatantly feel-good movies. Although Rocky Balboa doesn’t start off like that. Rocky is busy running his restaurant named after his dead wife, Adrian, and while not happy, isn’t unhappy retelling boxing stories over and over. What I like is that he’s still a nice guy, he lets a boxer he once beat eat for free in the restaurant, will still stand up for a girl’s honour and treat’s his brother-in-law Paulie with respect despite his negativism and bitterness. Rocky is a good guy.
The only problem is his son really – they’ve gone separate ways and Rocky Jr is even embarrassed by his father. I really liked the scenes between Rocky and his son, while they’re trying to talk in the lobby of Jr’s work, Rocky is clearly embarrassed by people recognising him, and then later on outside Adrian’s, Rocky has the speech of his life, only just eclipsing his speech to the boxing commission which get them to change their mind. It’s a cracker and puts the actual boxing in the shadow.
The story was basically secondary to me, I just enjoyed Rocky being Rocky. When he meets Marie and her son Steps he just wants to help them out. There’s no agenda there, he just wants to be nice to them (despite her calling him a “creepo” 30 years ago). Although I wasn’t complaining once the training montage started. It’s probably the best lead-in in the entire series: “Let’s start building some hurting bombs.”
The story is basically Rocky making his comeback against the current heavyweight champion. But it’s more than that. He’s trying to get over his wife’s death and he uses the fire inside him to drive him forward. The boxing itself is more realistic than previously but still a bit of nonsense. Watching Rocky’s journey through the rounds towards the conclusion is great and the ending a piece of understated brilliance. I loved it, I really did. The acting’s great, the music as good as always and you leave the cinema feeling good – what can be better than that?
Later this week I’ll have a Rocky treat for you (I say â€˜treat’, it’s more like a funny video), but for now enjoy the trailer:
I wanted to hate this movie, I remember it being awful, but honestly it’s not that bad. It’s got some good themes in it, it’s just that some of them are executed poorly. The story continues in the dressing room after Rocky has beaten Ivan Drago. He’s not doing well and after returning to America and being challenged to a fight with Union Cane by his Don King-alike promoter George Washington Duke, Rocky is told he has brain damage and can’t fight anymore.
As usual though, he wants to and when it turns out his accountant has lost his millions he moves back into his old neighbourhood and is depressed. Then Tommy â€˜Machine’ Gunn (not sure the â€˜Machine’ is necessary) turns up looking for Rocky to train him and, to cut the film down to a sentence, he does but then he defects to George Washington Duke, wins the heavyweight title, turns up at a bar to taunt Rocky and they end up having a street brawl, the end.
It’s actually an okay film, there are some good themes in there – the fact that Rocky neglects his own son and tries to live his life through Tommy, that Adrian and his son (bizarrely about eight years older than the previously film and named after a seasoning) are struggling to cope with their new lives, and that Tommy is seduced by the uncaring glitz of George Washington Duke. It’s just the ending really that annoys me. Not just the fight which is a major misjudgement, but Tommy’s sudden change in character from a likeable guy to a Rocky-hating spoilt brat is not believable, and the stuff with Sage at school doesn’t interest me. I’d like to have seen more of Adrian really and the scene where they’re going through their old stuff – the hat and the glasses – is a highlight.
So, not as bad as I thought and at least the one-armed push-ups make a (brief) comeback.
Now it’s time to see the sixth film which opens on Friday in the UK.
After half an hour of Rocky IV, I thought I was watching Rocky III again. Well instead of Rocky losing the fight, it’s Apollo, and instead of Micky dying, it’s errr Apollo again. Basically there’s a big new Russian on the block – Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and he’s huge and strong (with a very short robe too). He kills Apollo in the ring and Rocky feels guilty as he didn’t throw the towel in because he promised he wouldn’t. So off he goes to Russia for the rematch.
There’s a formula here that’s being followed, the makers love a montage and we get a treat earlier on with clips from the earlier films to the sound of Robert Tepper’s No Easy Way Out. The music is great throughout and gets you going. The whole idea is brilliant as released in 1985 at the height of the Cold War we see a brave American tackle the emotionless and technological advanced Russians. Except it actually doesn’t say that. By the end I ended up feeling for Drago as he’s a victim of the system and isn’t as unfeeling as we thought.
There are a lot of good points – Adrian gets more to do, the settings are great and the overall story is a lot of fun. However you need to switch your brain off really, compared to the first film Rocky hardly says anything and if I hadn’t seen the earlier ones I wouldn’t care about the character at all. As for the robot, don’t get me started.
Right, time to buy the soundtrack and go onto the fifth film. I’ve noticed these reviews getting shorter, I’ve got a feeling the next review won’t be an epic…
Ahh, Clubber Lang. Now there’s a name that inspires boxing excellence. Rocky III unsurpisingly follows on from where Rocky II left off (you can read my review of that here and the original here) and in a brief montage covers the next three years. I was immediately worried as Stallone looks a lot different even though it was released just three years later (1982) and Rocky does adverts and public appearances which he couldn’t do in the second film.
However it’s not that bad, Stallone still knows his character and Rocky is a more mature family man, but still stupid in his own way. About to retire, taking part in exhibition shows against wrestlers (Hulk Hogan on good form as Thunderlips) and raising a family, up and coming boxer Clubber Lang (Mr T) challenges him to a final fight which he can’t resist. This is when the problems start for Rocky and for the film. Rocky loses the fight, Mickey dies and he feels a waste. What follows in surprisingly short time is his rematch and the predictable conclusion.
I liked some bits, such as the fact Rocky trains in a flash gym and Lang in a basic gym – a reversal from when Rocky fought Apollo. The introduction of Apollo as a friend rather than foe is interesting and fun, it’s just I prefered Rocky when he was broke and struggling to cope. Now he’s in a suit and a little bit smug. And Stallone has pumped himself up from filming Rambo and looks too perfect. Even Paulie cleans himself up. There’s too much boxing and too little character development. I enjoyed the match with Hulk Hogan more than the boxing proper, it’s even more realistic.
It’s a decent film and the introduction of the Eye of the Tiger gets you going, but it’s not a patch of the previous outings.
Now for the Cold War of Rocky IV…
Released in 1979, Rocky II begins where the last one ended, in fact you get the last five minutes of the original and then it continues with Rocky being taken to hospital. There, despite whispering to Rocky at the end of the fight he doesn’t want a rematch, Apollo taunts him saying he wants to fight him again. So the scene is set for the film – or is it? Actually there’s a lot to get out the way first. Again, I can’t quite believe this is the same actor as the one that starred in Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot! Stallone is brilliant, just watch the scene where he proposes to Adrian. The wedding is great too. When Rocky kisses the bride you expect cheering and music, instead the camera pans up to reveal the only guests are Paulie, Micky, the money lender Tony Gazzo and Adrian’s boss from the pet shop.
Rocky is brain damaged after the fight and is happy with Adrian, with a new house and playing stick ball with kids in the street. This is juxtaposed with his awkwardness at the advertising shoot where he’d rather be somewhere else. He wants to box but gives it up for his wife and imminent baby, however he finds getting a regular job hard and after taunts from Apollo Creed, gets drawn back into a rematch.
It’s strange that the actual proper boxing training and fight takes up such a small part of the film, but it’s better for it. I’m not expert at the pugilistic arts but something tells me that’s not proper boxing. Rocky is supposedly fighting right-handed (he’s a south paw) to confuse Apollo but from what I can tell he basically gets punched in the face for 15 rounds. Mickey’s slightly risky strategy of reverting him to south paw in the last round is followed by a couple of decent left hooks and some more falling over from the both of them.
The fighting is just silly, fun, but unrealistic, I much preferred the earlier scenes. Rocky’s such a well written character, I enjoyed him speaking to his turtles, telling jokes to Adrian and trying to read much more than the boxing. Saying that I couldn’t help but cheer at the end.
A very slight rehash of the original film, Rocky II is almost as good as the first. Not sure what they can do next, oh, I know, get Mr T in on the actâ€¦