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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Welcome back and farewell, Rock."
5 stars

You could trace Sylvester Stallone’s life pretty accurately through the 'Rocky' movies. Stallone and Rocky Balboa, the punchy but good-hearted boxer who put Stallone on the map, started out bums and became kings.

Then in the ‘80s, the kings became bums — Rocky III and IV were crass junk, exploiting racism and xenophobia, respectively. The films were beginning to reflect Stallone’s out-of-touch decadence. Rocky V was an attempt to return to roots, but nobody took it seriously. With Rocky Balboa, though, the bums become kings again. Easily the equal of its forefather thirty years ago, the movie is more stirring and even more thought-provoking than the grim, overrated Million Dollar Baby.

Those who grew up with Rocky, as I did, will find themselves most susceptible to Rocky Balboa’s charms. It’s primitive, manipulative, simplistic, all the things the original Rocky was. But I also have to admit that when the creaky old Rocky ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with his newly adopted dog Punchy, reached the top, and punched the air in triumph, I wiped away a tear or two. Because those are not just steps. And Rocky Balboa isn’t just another Rocky sequel — it’s the last, coming from an actor/writer/director who, like his character, just wants to go the distance one more time.

Rocky is a widower now — he lost Adrian to “the woman cancer” four years ago. He owns a restaurant (named after Adrian) and hangs out there somewhat haplessly, regaling the diners with his old boxing stories. His brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young), as irascible as ever, paints abstract act during downtime at the meat factory and can’t face the past, which Rocky seems stuck in. His son Rocky Jr., who now goes by Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), toils as a corporate drone and feels negated by his father’s shadow. It’s a pretty bleak picture until an opportunity arises: the current heavyweight champ Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver), who has run out of worthy opponents, is talked into an exhibition match with Rocky after a computer-simulated match between the two puts Rocky on top.

Gone, mostly, is the empty flash of the previous Stallone-directed Rocky films. Rocky Balboa is a classical piece of filmmaking, with stately fade-outs and an attentive eye for dialogue nuance. Rocky chats up a bartender (Geraldine Hughes) who turns out to be Marie, the punky girl he advised to steer clear of the wrong crowd in the first Rocky. Marie is all grown up now, with a teenage son who calls himself Steps. Hughes, a disconcerting dead ringer for Emily Watson, brings some of Talia Shire’s reticence and toughness to the almost-romance that develops between Marie and Rocky. Stallone shoots on the gray, snowy streets of Philly, in its bars and restaurants, harking back to a time when locations in movies had character — the ‘70s. Rocky Balboa is comfortable with the past (it even brings back Spider, the guy Rocky defeated pre-Apollo Creed in the first Rocky).

Then the climactic fight arrives, and after a strong start — in which we genuinely fear for Rocky’s sagging flesh and “brittle” bones — Stallone and editor Sean Albertson get a little too crazy with the flash-cuts and impressionistic strobing imagery. One can imagine grouchy Paulie squinting at the results and growling “What the hell is this? Lemme see the fight!” And eventually Stallone does snap out of it and lets the fight choreography lead the editing.

Then again, 'Rocky Balboa' isn’t really about the match, any more than 'Rocky' was (the sequels lost sight of that, at their peril). It’s about a bum turned king turned bum who finds it in himself to reclaim, however briefly, his throne. It’s Stallone’s 'King Lear,' and he’s finally ready for it.

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originally posted: 01/01/07 10:00:13
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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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