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Overall Rating

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 brianorndorf

"Stallone and his big, fat, wet kiss to Rocky fans around the globe"
5 stars

The Italian Stallion brawls his way back to the big screen in the screechingly entertaining “Rocky Balboa.” Acting both as an apology for “Rocky V” and for Stallone’s recent career, “Balboa” has it all: heart, performance, and a healthy sense of character nuance while also giving the fans what they crave.

For most film lovers, the news that Sylvester Stallone was going to resurrect the “Rocky” franchise for a sixth installment, 30 long years after the original film, was laughable. 1990’s “Rocky V” slit the throat of the series, blinded by both the greed of sequeldom and the thrill of having original director John Avildsen step back behind the camera. It was intended as the final ode to Rocky Balboa, but it was ultimately a muddled, desperate effort that disregarded many of the primal reasons audiences love this character.

With “Rocky Balboa,” Stallone is setting out to right many of the wrongs.

After the tragic death of Adrian (Talia Shire, seen in brief flashbacks), Rocky (Stallone) has resigned himself to a life managing a restaurant and regaling the customers with stories of his boxing glory days. Estranged from his son (Milo Ventimiglia, in a spot-on bit of casting), Rocky sits uncomfortably with the knowledge that he still wants to matter to himself, and to his loved ones, like Paulie (Burt Young) and Marie (Geraldine Hughes), a young woman Rocky takes a shine to. When a computer-generated fight between Rocky and heavyweight champ Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver) shows that Rocky would still pack quite a punch if the two were matched today, Dixon’s handlers offer the reluctant, but willing Italian Stallion the chance to prove himself in the ring for real.

Assuming writing and directing duties, Stallone treats “Balboa” like a baby kitten. He knows how much this will make or break the legacy of the character and his own career, and every last detail of the film has the sensation of careful, delicate deliberation – something this franchise hasn’t seen in a very long time. Stallone wants to bend back the series to the more down-to-earth emotional standards of the 1976 original, before the excess of the 80s hurled the sequels away to admittedly entertaining cartoon levels.

It is a great pleasure to report that Stallone has found an ideal way to bring Rocky back to ground level, while also doling out the goosebump, fist-pumping moments that made the series an enduring legend. “Balboa” plays the audience like a fiddle; Stallone knows full well what audiences want and don’t want to see from his iconic character, and he’s generous with inspirational speeches and comedic moments with Rocky that play to known quantities without coming off as anything but sweetly heartfelt.

“Balboa” is formula with a capital F, but Stallone has made it work in his favor for this final round by adding gentle, reflective moments of Rocky dealing with age, loss, and personal inventory. Stallone the writer has given Stallone the actor some sincerely felt moments of pain, and even when they reach the shores of cheese, the performance marks the deepest Stallone has ever reached within himself to communicate passion and frustration. I just adored his work in all facets of production here, from recreating the tight, gritty sense of Philadelphia community for Rocky to interact with to a romantic, nuanced portrayal of Rocky himself; a punch-drunk role that has haunted Stallone his whole career. He not only makes peace with the legacy of Rocky in “Balboa,” but finally seems to befriend the character. It’s nice to have such a powerful reminder on how much of a charmer Stallone can be. It’s been far too long.

Soon, “Balboa” sprints back into the land of training montages and “hurting bombs,” as Rocky prepares for battle. These sequences are the diamonds of the series, and Stallone doesn’t pull any trick punches here. After 70 minutes of character development and dramatic growth, it finally comes time for Bill Conti’s globally-known “Gonna Fly Now” to flame on, and I defy almost any audience member to not find their senses roar to life watching Rocky huff it up the Philadelphia Museum of Art front steps again, this time older and wiser, with a difference perception of accomplishment. Stallone is shameless with callbacks to the earlier films here (sparring with slabs of frozen meat, the raw egg cocktail), but, by now, he’s earned his right to leisurely backstroke in the warm, forgiving pool of nostalgia.

What’s alternately magnificent and disappointing about “Rocky Balboa” is the final fight sequence between Dixon and Rocky. While still a suspenseful, hand-clapper of a closer, Rocky has quieted his demons by this time, and his journey is somewhat complete before we reach the end of the movie. Still, the ending acts a sweet bookend to the original film, and truthfully, should only be appreciated in a theater full of rowdy “Rocky” fans that can’t get enough.

Fittingly finding release on the eve of Christmas, “Rocky Balboa” is a confidently-wrapped, wildly-pleasing present from Sylvester Stallone to his fans and supporters, as well as to himself.

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originally posted: 12/21/06 09:30:01
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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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