Rocky Balboa Review
Why, I wonder, as I’m sure do many other right-thinking people, why make another Rocky film? I quite enjoyed Rocky (but I was about 10), quite enjoyed Rocky II, thought Rocky III was ridiculous and simply gave up on Rocky IV, V, VI – oh hang on, this is Rocky 6. Stallone, after his triumph in the Eighties as Rocky/Rambo, spent the Nineties trying to reinvent himself as a ‘proper’ actor, rather than going into politics; now he has returned to the character that he knows best, the eternal underdog and all round nice guy, Rocky. (Interestingly, Rambo IV is also in pre-production. What next, Terminator IV?)
Obviously Rocky (Stallone) is no longer a fighter. He now owns a restaurant, where he relives his glory days boring the punters who have come in for dinner. He is estranged from his yuppie son (Ventimiglia), who finds living up to his legendary father a struggle, and he’s still in mourning for his beloved wife Adrian. Rocky’s life is oddly purposeless and he’s lonely, so when he runs into Marie (Hughes), an old friend from the neighbourhood, he is pleased to befriend her and her teenage son, Steps (Kelly).
Then a local sports network, covering boxing, poses a challenge: of the current reigning champion, Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Carver), and Rocky in his heyday, who would come off best in a fight? Bizarrely, this leads to a sports promoter seriously proposing a fight between Rocky and Mason, ten rounds, on the grounds that though Mason is a brilliant fighter he’s never really been challenged. Why either of them accept is anyone’s guess. Rocky goes into training, with help from Marie, Steps, his brother-in-law Paulie (Young) and even Rocky Jr. So the only question is, can Rocky go the distance?
Well, this being Rocky, of course he can. You can imagine, in 20 years time, they’ll be bringing Rocky out of cryogenic storage to fight boxers 400 years younger than him. You either buy into this premise or you don’t and I’m sorry to say I found Rocky utterly preposterous. Its also surprisingly dull – I mean, you really want them to get on with the fighting and the first forty minutes or so are just tedious: Rocky goes to work, Rocky dreams of Adrian, Rocky drives round Philly, remembering all the places that he and Adrian used to go, culminating in the appearance of Adrian’s floating head. Then he meets Marie, and you think, phew, maybe he’ll stop thinking of Adrian, but no, he and Marie are just friends. Instead he starts spending Saturdays with her son, needing his advice, apparently, to pick out a dog.
Anyway, finally the preposterous challenge is set and we see Rocky’s training montage begin. Cheer! As Rocky lifts a heavy weight. Rejoice! As he skips for more than thirty seonds. Applaud! As he runs up those famous steps, dog in tow. The camaraderie even wins over sulky young Rocky. Its everything that you expect from a Rocky film right down to the underlying racism. Because you can be bloody talented and incredibly hard-working but that counts for nothing when you’re up against the Italian Stallion and his insanely dogged determination and pride.
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