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Worth A Look: 43.96%
Average: 1.1%
Pretty Bad: 1.1%
Total Crap: 1.1%

6 reviews, 55 user ratings

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Rocky Balboa
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by Erik Childress

"Maybe There’s Hope For Indiana Jones After All."
4 stars

The announcement of Sylvester Stallone to bring his beloved Rocky back to the big screen was met with a collective groan peppered with enough arthritis jokes to outnumber the similar jabs lobbed at the Rolling Stones. As we’ve got closer to the release of the sixth Rocky film, the first in 16 years, a stranger sort of anticipation began to wash over me. Maybe it was that old Rocky feeling that’s aided me in my enjoyment of all the chapters. Yes, even the fifth one which gets a bit of a bum rap. Or more likely it was the sense of hope that only a character like Rocky Balboa could bring – that Sly was going to put the punctuation on the saga once and for all and go out like a champ. He’s gone beyond the call though by capturing more than just the underdog feeling of his rah-rah anthem. By reminding us of how we fell in love with the character in the first place, Stallone has made the best film in the series since the original.

One of the early plot points leaked to some dismay was the passing of Rocky’s beloved Adrian. As I’ve taken to convincing others for many years that the 1976 classic is a love story and not a film about boxing, losing the heart and soul over what cynically can be viewed as an easy way to explain the absence of Talia Shire’s involvement in the project loomed like a black cloud. Stallone doesn’t just gloss over it though. As it should, Adrian’s loss has left an emptiness in Rocky and the early scenes are beautiful as he hauls around brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) to the various locations where he first courted his sister. The pet shop is no longer. The ice rink has been torn down. All reminders of time playing cruel tricks on memories and Paulie having good reason to want to forget those times.

It’s been 30 years since those days. Rocky Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia, taking over for Sly’s son Sage from #5) can’t go anywhere without someone reminding him whose son he is. Rocky Sr. is still a local icon in Philadelphia and is humbly using that clout to tell stories to customers at his restaurant, another honor to his late wife. Meanwhile, anyone who has followed boxing as of late know of its decline as a bankable sport; somewhere well below the WWE, but likely still an edge on hockey. Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver) is the current champion in a sport full of undercards. His decisive victories have the Pay-Per-Views down and sportswriters diminishing his undefeated record in the face of worthless challengers. ESPN exasberates the issue by using computers to determine the varying factors of champions over time (much the same way they did with the great NFL teams of the past) and Balboa handily defeats Dixon. The champ’s manager and promoter see an opportunity to flesh this out into an exhibition and Rocky may get a chance to feed his hunger to come out of retirement.

On paper, as it did in the trailer, the concept feels a little ridiculous, but it’s the film’s own undercard; the MacGuffin to give us one final training montage. The real strength of Rocky Balboa is within the titular hero himself. At the CineVegas film festival this year, Stallone was on hand as one of the honorees and introduced a special screening of the 1976 Oscar winner. It had been years since I had seen the film and never before on the big screen. As audience pleasers go, the final half hour is as perfect as they come. But it’s the 90 minutes prior to that which makes it so. No matter what Rocky may have been doing in the strongman business, underneath he was just a straight-up good person – the Forrest Gump of his time. This is the quality audiences are going to rediscover with this film.

While no one will ever replace Adrian (even if some are destined to label her the “new Adrian”), Rocky meets Marie (Geraldine Hughes), a somewhat dowdy bartender who has actually encountered the local before years ago. 1976 to be precise – as the little girl whom he walked home with some free advice only to be told “screw you, creepo!” It’s another nice touch to bridge the past with the present and proof that there are still some gentlemen out there who can help a woman without hitting on her. Marie and her son (whom Rocky is hilariously speculative about) are defacto substitutes for Adrian and the boy he continues having trouble connecting with and it services not just as a surrogate but as a wellspring for his grief which Stallone gets maximum effect out of during conversations with Paulie and a lash-out speech to his son. This is not just the best Rocky film since the first. It’s also the best performance Stallone has given since his Oscar-nominated turn.

People mostly remember the fights and the opponents, who had to get more villainous with each outing until the climactic pugilism, while still entertaining, meant about as much as a James Bond film. I had a conversation with a friend of mine just days before the screening of Rocky Balboa where he put the beginnings of this story into such sublime perspective. He said that Rocky was never about winning. It was only later when he became a punchline for knocking down society’s minority-of-the-month in a sport where he was becoming a minority. Rocky was about the struggle to succeed in the face of overwhelming doom to failure. In the end, he only lost on paper. He was a winner for all of us and more importantly to Adrian, inspiring the famous last words and one of the most emotional rushes for an embrace audiences have ever had the privilege to experience.

With the sixth and final film, Stallone has become the character; a doppelganger to overcome a perceived embarrassment in order to “go out the way I’ve got to go out.” The fight scene, while perhaps trumped up just a little, precisely does its business and gives way to an ending that earns its applause without a flashing sign. I don’t see anyway Stallone will be able to have the same turnaround on his Rambo franchise; a product of the 80s that should remain there with no hard feelings. Rocky is for every decade and the proverbial sun has set with enough grace to make us all feel a little apologetic for the doubt we all had on the character who was a champ well before he was ever a champion.

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originally posted: 12/20/06 16:11:49
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User Comments

6/11/09 R.W. Welch Stallone takes the hits and keeps on moving forward. Good script. 4 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight Great conclusion to the series 5 stars
6/17/08 Johnnyfaye I glad Stallone for trying to fix the series. I would have liked a better fight 4 stars
3/27/08 Tim Endearing and nostalgic, Stallone recaptures the spirit of the original 4 stars
1/04/08 mr.mike as good as it possibly could have been , even more so for fans 4 stars
9/20/07 Johnnyfaye This movie made me all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm glad Rocky gets a happy ending 5 stars
9/14/07 Xtos MAde up for number 5 4 stars
8/09/07 EZ $$ wasn't thinking it was gonna be this great 5 stars
6/07/07 Indrid Cold Solid, but mostly just looks good because 3-5 were bad. 4 stars
5/22/07 kitfo Art Imitates Life. One fight remains; kick Schwartzenegger's opportunistic Republican ass 4 stars
5/16/07 AJ Muller Finishes the series with the greatest since the first; awesome and uplifting. Way to go. 5 stars
4/29/07 David Pollastrini Didn't Weird Al have a song about this movie? 3 stars
3/25/07 Joe Much better than I thought it would be. Sly gives the champ the fond farewell he deserves. 4 stars
3/17/07 Sreehari We love ya rock 5 stars
3/13/07 DonnaH A wonderful bookend to the first Rocky. Beautiful movie. 5 stars
3/08/07 Luke Yo Sly, you did it!! 4 stars
2/24/07 Alice Yo Rocky ! Great movie ! 5 stars
2/21/07 Nick Stalone as Writer, Director AND ACTOR THUMBS up! Emotionally touching Movie. 5 stars
2/18/07 Double M Great ending for the series. The greatest underdog ever. Yo, Rocky, we'll miss you.... 5 stars
2/12/07 Rambo Great! Not a pulsating fight, but a absorbing story 4 stars
2/03/07 Kern Brilliantly and inspirationly written! Thanks so much, Sly! Fantastic stuff! 5 stars
2/03/07 Sam A beautiful farewell to a man who thought us never to give up. Rocky, I celebrate you 5 stars
1/29/07 MP Bartley Elegaic, stirring and honest. Stallone is award worthy (no, really). 4 stars
1/22/07 Anil A great film! I've never been so tense during a film! Best since Rocky II 5 stars
1/15/07 LaManna I sincerely wish he'd keep makin em! Incredible work Stallone 5 stars
1/14/07 Jeff I think it may be the best Rocky since the first one!!! 5 stars
1/12/07 Michaelb1478 He went out like he came in, best of the series since Rocky I 5 stars
1/11/07 Calin Great ending for one of the simplest yet most inspiring movies. Honest and touching 5 stars
1/09/07 Mike G A little corny at times, but hey, that's Rocky. Fantastic closure for me. 5 stars
1/08/07 Paul Walker What a send off awesome ! thank you Rocky Balboa. 5 stars
1/05/07 Anthony Feor One of the GREATEST films ever made 5 stars
1/04/07 CJD Emotionally powerful stuff. Sincere and cathartic. Nostalgic yet relevant. 5 stars
1/03/07 SHAWN Excellent way to end it! I'm sorry to Rocky go, but Stallone took him out on a high note! 5 stars
1/03/07 John Really good! 5 stars
1/03/07 Brian Mckay A Fond farewell for Rocky fans - best Rocky movie since the first one, and Stallone's best. 4 stars
1/02/07 iamfelix Excellent - People you care about, which is what makes a good movie. 5 stars
12/31/06 ahnold 1st & 2nd movies excellent. 3rd good. Down from there. This only beats V (unfortunately) 2 stars
12/29/06 JEET The best! 5 stars
12/29/06 Jordan Awesome movie!! I loved it. Kinda sad it's the last one though! 5 stars
12/27/06 Angel An awesome inspiring film, a must see for any Rocky fan, will not dissapoint 5 stars
12/27/06 JackJ The way it should have ended! Rocky! Rocky! 5 stars
12/27/06 Delores Lamkins I was so hoping it would be good, it surpassed my expectations 5 stars
12/27/06 JGS V is too often maligned. New one is a nice epilogue. Nice job Sly! 4 stars
12/26/06 Stephanie Great Film. Great Message. Loved it! 5 stars
12/25/06 Todd If Rocky wants a fight, he should put his head up his ass and fight for air. Fucking sucks! 1 stars
12/25/06 Johnsy The 16 year wait to see Sly do what he does best was worth it. 5 stars
12/24/06 Chris H Fine film....great way to end the series. Forget Rocky V 5 stars
12/24/06 RockyD The best! Really over the top! 5 stars
12/23/06 Seth I loved it! Great ending to the series. I'm just sad it's over. 5 stars
12/22/06 Jefferson It was GREAT!!! just like ROCKY, sorry it's over. 5 stars
12/22/06 Casamoro Best since Rocky II, flawed but memorable ening ot the series 4 stars
12/22/06 Jason This is without a doubt THE movie to see in 2006. 5 stars
12/21/06 Ole Man Bourbon An entertaining parade of speeches. I felt like I was watching an oration contest at times 4 stars
12/21/06 Adam Very, very, very fulfilling. Turn up the music and punch SFX in the fight, Sly! 5 stars
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  20-Dec-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 20-Mar-2007



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