Reviewed By Slyder
Posted 09/26/04 05:35:18

"Still memorable after all these years"
5 stars (Awesome)

Itís true that the formula of Rocky has already been done many times before, about the disgraced fuck that one-ups himself in order to gain if not fame, at least respect; just check Elia Kazanís masterful On the Waterfront. Still, the reason that Rocky works is because everybody here gave it 100% on the shoe-string budget they have. Sylvester Stallone couldnít ask for a better career debut and he rightfully deserved it when Rocky became one of the biggest hits of 1976, and still stands as one of the most memorable films ever made. What happened afterwards of course is another story.

The plot of course was inspired by the notorious Muhammad Ali vs. Chuck Wepner fight in which Wepner went a full 16 rounds and even once knocking the Greatest down. Hence the following: Chump boxer and local bum Rocky Balboa (Stallone) suddenly gets the chance of a lifetime when out of sheer luck World Heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) draws his name out of the box to become his next contender. Balboa sees this as a chance to gain at least the respect of his peers, especially a boxing coach called Mickey (Burgess Meredith) whom would later become his trainer, while at the same time he tries to woo a local shy pet store clerk Adrian (Talia Shire) whom is sister to Rockyís friend Paulie (Burt Young).

The success of everyone here is well-deserved since due to the low budget, everyone gives out their best in the movie. Director John G. Alvidsen (Joe, Save the Tiger, and The Karate Kid) manages to successfully turn his economical shortcomings into artistic strengths as he and cinematographer James Crabe bring out the cold urban landscapes of Philadelphia and its suburbs, which help show the harsh world in which our characters live in. Yet the amazing thing that Crabe and Alvidsen manage to achieve is that despite the brutal and harsh environment, its strangely alluring, comforting, almost intimate. This is important because this atmosphere makes the viewer feel at home with the characters, and their daily processions are so natural, it is as if we were watching a glimpse from our window out towards our very own neighborhood. It's a working class world in which they live in and Rocky lies at the bottom of the pit as the impossible not to like thumb-breaker/amateur boxer. Yet despite his status and the lack of respect from his peers, Rocky's heart shines so brightly it is capable of melting the icy textures that surround his life. One great example of this atmosphere's effectiveness is the ice skating ring scene, in which 300 extras were originally planned but since they couldn't afford it, they only shot with Rocky jogging and Adrian nervously skating around the ring. Yet as they set on their jog/skate, the chemistry between these two shy and introverted souls shines out, converting a potentially boring sequence into one of the most intimate scenes in the movie. It's in this scene when we see how Rocky manages to confirm the discovery of Adrian as his counterpart, and how these two seem destined for each other.

The script is unquestionably Stalloneís best (compared to the utter shit he would write later on) even if the fights are gripping yet unrealistic and it leaves a couple of characters and scenes undeveloped such as Paulieís character. And the reason for this is because Stallone developed his two main characters thoroughly; Rocky is a three-dimensional human being, a loser with a conscience and a heart of gold who suddenly is given the break of a lifetime and sees a chance of making his own mark as a boxer. He doesn't seek fame, and humbly accepts that he's a nobody, yet the only thing he wants is to be finally recognized as somebody of value. Adrian is also a banished soul like Rocky's, and you can tell her frustration at the state of her life in her face, and yet despite this she shows deep loyalty to Rocky and to his brother Paulie despite the latter's violent outbursts. Full credit is deserved for Stallone, Alvidsen and Crabe for their outstanding work in this movie.

The second most important thing that drives the movie is the acting: Stallone gives out is honest and most complete performance due to the fact that the limitations of the character mold very well with his personality, and also because he gives it all since this was his make-or-break film; itís pretty much the only time he manages to truly act and only once or twice he would come close to match his performance here. Talia Shire also comes out on her own with her dead-on portrayal as the shy Adrian, and its an amazing performance as she manages to speak volumes with her manners and her looks more than with words. Burt Young is a little less so, but still has moments of brilliance as the violent Paulie. Besides Stallone though, the man of the hour is Burgess Meredith and he nearly walks away with the entire movie with his impressive portrayal of the snarly Mickey.

In the end, this film is a classic, and a fine film to watch with the family since itís one of those feel-good movies that you canít help but watch. Too bad that Stallone lost himself amongst his own movie formulas and brainless action thrillers and became nothing more than a talent-less studio hack. The same goes for Alvidsen, whom only did one good film after this one, and never recovered since. Oh what couldíve beenÖ 5-5

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.