A thank you goes out to Mr. Stallone for providing my generation with a Rocky film that we could go to the movie theater and encounter for ourselves. Also, I would like to thank Stallone as a Rocky fan in general for giving the public a sense of closure for one of the the greatest underdog stories ever told. Arguably, because I feel that honor belongs to Rudy.
However, that is as far as I will go with the thank yous. Stallone did a disservice to the legend by putting together the second straight Rocky travesty and further tarnishing the legacy by building on the poor precedent set by Rocky V.
You can’t help but notice the disappearance of all barriers brought up in the preceding Rocky films. (mainly the lack of money and brain problems, Rocky must have got the okay from some of the NFL’s concussion specialists.) This may be attributed to the main theme of the film, the death of Adrian, but in this devoted fan’s mind, this is a loss of credibility. It should have been addressed through a flashback at least, because any flashback to the greatness of I-IV could only be a good thing.
After the death of his wife, Rocky opened an Italian restaurant called Adrian’s. Rocky roams the floor doing the same pose in every photograph and making like Artie Buco, taking part in the table conversation. These practices annoyed me throughout, but I could say that they spoke to Rocky’s dim-witted side and this did set the scene of the life of a retired athlete; no excitement, no adrenaline, no prestige.
The action starts when ESPN airs a simulated, video game match between Rocky and the current champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon, played by real-life middleweight Antonio Tarver, and probably the best name of any Rocky opponent. Rocky knocks Dixon out, and the fake match draws interest back to the old boxer. With no legitimate contenders (much like heavyweight division today), Dixon and Balboa agree to an exhibition match.
I was pleased with the film and the direction that it was going until this point. I was greatly anticipating the training montage, his run up the steps, and the fight itself. Unfortunately, my high hopes were unfulfilled, much like Philadelphia sports fans hopes in general.
Just think about the defining moments you remember from past Rocky films; the press conference in Rocky IV; when Adrian comes out of a coma in Rocky II to only say "Win." That defining moment is overlooked in this latest chapter. At one point, Rocky talks to his son about life and why he wants to fight one more time. I was left waiting for the music to cue in and the running to start, but all that came was more of the same scenes in the restaurant.
The training did come, but it was short and unfulfilling, like the Bulls in the post-Jordan era or a handshake on a first date.
One piece of the movie was refreshing, however. The entire final fight scene was innovative and used cuts to flashbacks, the crowd and the fighters’ corners more effectively than I have ever seen before, and I hope to see it again.
Another bright spot of the film was, as always, Paulie. And this is particularly evident in “Rocky Balboa.” The movie constantly shows him trying to be serious, and it comes out utterly hilarious, like watching Flava Flav trying to hook up.
Overall, Rocky fans should go see this movie, but don’t get your hopes up. If you watched the trailer, you already saw half the movie anyway. Just be wary, you will see a great story, with two long lost characters from Rocky I, but in the end it will leave you asking why “Rocky Balboa” didn’t stick to its guns.
In retrospect, it was still better than Tommy Gunn and Rocky V.
P.S. There is a Mike Tyson cameo, how much nose candy did they have to dish out to get that?