True to form, 1985’s Rocky 4 starts at the end of Rocky 3.
Those familiar with the Rocky franchise will remember this one as the most well known: the one where he fights the big Russian. Rocky 4 was the highest grossing sports movie until 2009 when it was overtaken by The Blind Side, earning around $300m at the box office.
It may not be the best in the series, but it continues with the same winning formula.
Dolph Lundgren comes to town in the guise of Ivan Drago, a 6ft 5, 120kg Soviet boxer. The Soviet’s are keen to show off this athlete as a symbol of their superiority. Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) makes the decision to take on this ‘chump’ and show him a thing or two about America’s might and power.
Mmmm. This was perhaps one of those days when Apollo should have stayed in bed. It didn’t go to plan. In fact, it couldn’t have gone much worse. Needless to say what follows, and without giving away the plot, of which most would know, Rocky ends up fighting Drago in the usual final fight sequence.
This film is good. Not great, just good. There is a particularly boring section in the middle when Rocky is driving and it really drags as he reflects back on the past few movies. It’s a time filler – I have no doubt Sylvester Stallone needed to fluff out 5 minutes…and fluff it out he did.
The film’s saving grace is the training scenes and the 2 boxing matches. All are inspiring and filmed well with the correct amount of tension.
No matter how often you watch this movie, you always want Rocky to absolutely smash the big man. You will find yourself on your feet and your body twitching as you feel the blows.
“I must break you”
1990’s Rocky 5 co-starred Sly’s son Sage and real life boxer Tommy Morrison who plays Tommy Gunn, a talented yet raw boxer.
Sylvester Stallone hands the directing of this movie over to John G Avilsden who directed the original Rocky movie, the one where he won an Oscar for Best Directing. So naturally, you would expect some big things.
Unfortunately, the less said about this movie the better. It just didn’t work. Was it the editing? Tommy’s character? The acting? Probably a combination of the 3. Tommy never endeared himself to the audience like the other fighters.
While Rocky 4 earned $300m, this one struggled with only about $220m in comparison.
It is a shame as this movie had potential. There were a lot of themes to explore.
Rocky was hurt badly by Ivan Drago in number 4, and in this movie, he retires from fighting under the insistence of his wife Adrian, for the last time played by Talia Shire.
The problem is that he needs to fight. Good old Paulie (Burt Young) has, to put it mildly, done one over on him, forcing Rocky to file for bankruptcy.
It’s not nice to see Rocky back to his humble beginnings; you wish so much more for him. Had he picked himself up and found a way back this may have helped the movie. But there is no happy ending. There is really no decent training sequence or final fight scene. The tension wasn’t there. The winning formula of the previous few movies is non existent.
It was quite depressing. It’s not what I want from a Rocky movie. I want to feel uplifted at the end.
I didn’t. I felt flat.
“My ring is outside”
Rocky Balboa (2006), the last in the Rocky franchise, was a long time in the making. 16 years between drinks.
This movie is full of nostalgia. It didn’t need to be made. It was a gamble. I think Sylvester Stallone was so disappointed with Rocky 5 he felt he had to settle the ledger. He did.
It is by no means anything like the iconic 3 and 4 but is a final homage to the fighter who brought us so much.
I remember going to the movies to watch this. Wondering what a 60 year old Rocky and more importantly, a 60 year old Sylvester Stallone could bring to the table. How could he possibly make this work?
Well, with a sprinkling of romance, a heap of sentimentality and an abundance of nostalgia, he nails it.
There are many things that make this work.
His inspiring monologues, including his impassioned plea to the boxing board and to his son Robert, played by Milo Ventimiglia of Heroes fame.
His reluctant commitment to his restaurant, Adrian, named after his late wife.
The depth of his loss of Adrian who was his everything is played out really nicely. Not overdone. We know how much he loved her all throughout the previous films. She was the rock to his Rocky.
Paulie, (Burt Young) is still around. He seems to have chilled a bit and helps out around the restaurant.
The flashback scenes through all the previous movies do not feel laboured. This time we are on Sly’s side. It has been 21 years since we had a decent Rocky movie so we, the audience, are willing it to work.
Sylvester Stallone is in incredible shape at 60, fighting a much younger and faster opponent, Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon – the current champion.
This film is not about winning or losing. It’s not really about the training scenes or the fight scenes. It’s about saying goodbye to an icon.
Sylvester Stallone refused to stay down. He wanted to finish on a high.
And as he says:
“It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward”
And he did.