***Note***I ain't no spoiler, Mick. I ain't no spoiler.
Sixteen years have passed since Rocky last “threw hands” with his protégé Tommy “The Machine” Gunn and essentially ended one of the most famous underdog stories in film. Most fans found that the last film lacked the emotional punch and a satisfying conclusion so Stallone wrote and pitched this new Rocky installment to cap off the series with a triumphant blow.
Making a sequel like this one isn’t a cake walk through a tea party: Sly is much older now (no one else could play Rocky), there are an army of studio nay-sayers (who, according to Stallone, have been stonewalling the production) and what kind of story could wrap up all the loose ends without speaking over the heads of those who aren’t Rocky fans.
Though there are legions of hardcore fans, nostalgia alone does not make a movie a blockbuster. A movie needs heart, guts and some great dialogue to go the distance.
There were a few signature elements to Rocky sequels that I was looking for: A “catch-up” montage of what has been happening with Rocky since the last film, the inspirational speech that gets Rocky motivated to train, the training montage and an expertly choreographed fight.
The only missing element from my list was the “catch-up” montage but I think the reason that they didn’t put one in was that they wanted to distance themselves from Rocky V(For the same reason that the title is Rocky Balboa instead of Rocky VI). Though they don’t want us to forget about the events from that movie either, Rocky still lives in South Philly, he tells the tale of what Mickey’s angel told him to his customers at his restaurant and several references to conversations like “careful, I’m brittle” and “home team”. Though there are some flashbacks to Mickey and Apollo, there should have been more, maybe to stretch out the very short training montage. These two guys were pivotal in Rocky’s life and they barely get mentioned.
Written and directed by Stallone, this film succeeds in being quick paced and emotionally motivated, based on several well constructed and executed speeches. As a mirror to the first in the series, this film doesn’t have much fighting in it and deals with the inner turmoil of the characters. There isn’t much in this film that hasn’t already been said in the other Rocky movies, but that is hardly a knock against this film. We expect Rocky to fight with all his heart and he does. He shows the world that even the little guy should get a chance at the big time.
Along with Stallone, Burt Young (Paulie) and Tony Burton (Duke) come back to play their iconic characters. Their acting is good though their characters have seen better days (the actors have also seen better days). The other main characters in the film are played by Geraldine Hughes, who plays Marie (a bit character from Rocky, who yells out “Screw you, Creepo!”), Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Rocky’s son Robert, and Antonio Tarver, who plays Mason “The Line” Dixon (the main rival in the film). The new comers were rather good, even Tarver was convincing as a pompous boxer who’s more interested in image rather than sportsmanship. Marie’s whiny voice gets annoying by the end of the picture when she just keeps shouting and shouting. But that’s a small price to pay to have a likeable female character in the film that isn’t
The budget of this film was an estimated 24 Mil USD, and it shows where they spent their money, the boxing match. There were flashbacks, digital effects, pyrotechnics, and Mike Tyson. It was also filmed by an official HBO broadcasting team to get that “true to life” feeling. They even got Michael Buffer to recite his trademarked saying “Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!”.
This movie doesn’t disappoint as the bookend of the series. Though it lacks some of the low budget charm of the first it trims the fat that lined the later incarnations. It pays homage to where the series has been and the journey it has taken us on. It probably won’t win any awards but it was entertaining and done well. Rocky Balboa gets a 7/10 or a three and a half stars out of five.