The 1990s had been mostly poor for Stallone but as the century turned over things just got worse and worse. By the time he announced that Rocky would be dusting off his boxing gloves once again his star had hit rock bottom after such disasters as D-Tox, Driven and Get Carter. This time around our hero is now on his ass running his own restaurant and telling boring boxing stories to anyone who’ll listen. Adrian has sadly passed away from cancer and his son prefers to deny that he even exists due to his former fame.
Thankfully for Rocky people do want to know who the greatest of all time is and a sports show speculates that he would have the beating of current champ Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Antonio Tarver). As the public pressure mounts on Dixon he’s advised to pitch an exhibition fight against Rocky to prove that he can indeed beat a man who’s entering his fifties. The film undoubtedly gets mileage out of two facts currently blighting the heavyweight division in boxing. The first being the success of lean mean grilling machine maker George Foreman who proved that a forty-five year old could indeed beat a 26 year old bum for the heavyweight title. The other fact is that the division itself has lost all credibility as blown up middleweights such as Roy Jones Jr actually became heavyweight champion due to the astounding lack of talent currently around.
The vast majority of the film has Rocky moping around with Paulie wondering what the hell happened to him. To make matters worse Rocky then starts a relationship with a girl he actually remembers as a teenager from the first film which in itself is a little tasteless. The son, played by the awful Milo Ventimiglia, is all scorn and pain until he realises that dad is going back in the ring and sees the error of his ways.
Rocky Balboa might not be the best in this long enduring franchise but it’s at least better than the bottom of the barrel fifth installment. Once we get into the building, we return to the glory of the training montage and a welcome return for Tony Burton as the evergreen trainer Duke. The film does at least have a sense of humour. When it’s all said and done there’s plenty to enjoy in Rocky’s return to the ring.
Having been away so long it’s nice to settle back into an old favourite who I personally love just about as much as Sly clearly does. No matter what anyone says, the first four Rocky films are all sport drama classics for varying reasons. Stallone further confirmed his re-emergence with another Rambo flick that was so astoundingly brilliant it blew away all the others in the franchise bar the original First Blood. Basically I’m happy to have Sylvester Stallone back making over the top films for non grown-ups such as myself.
Rocky Balboa isn’t as good as the first four classic entries in this series but does thankfully banish the rather horrible memories of Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) and Rocky V. The film also serves as a perfect goodbye to this legendary character. Films based around sports are few and far between with only Americans seemingly capable of capturing the mythical quality required. Rocky is essentially a fairy-tale with elements of reality that play perfectly on the audiences wanting to achieve something out of nothing.