Written and Directed
by Sylvester Stallone
Running Time: 1:41
for boxing violence and some language.
Rocky Balboa was a special and amazing film and a fitting conclusion to the Rocky saga.
Years after the death of his wife Adrian, Rocky Balboa's life isn't where he thought it would be. His son barely speaks to him, his restaurant isn't doing well and all he has are trips to the cemetery to visit Adrian's tombstone. A story on ESPN presents the question, if boxers from different eras could fight each other, who would be the greatest of all time? One of their bouts puts the current, and unappreciated, champ Mason 'The Line' Dixon vs. Rocky, and the computer simulation names Rocky the winner. Deep inside himself, Rocky can feel the burning desire to get back in the ring once again. Few people believe in him, including his son and Paulie, but Rocky knows the only person that matters is himself. The heart of a champion can never die.
I've been looking forward to Rocky Balboa from the moment it was announced. I knew that given one last chance to give Rocky a final chapter, Sylvester Stallone wouldn't let his fans down, and he did not. In fact, this movie was even better than I could have imagined. I went in thinking that I'd get to see Rocky enter the ring one last time and go toe to toe with a heavily favored opponent and come out victorious once again. I figured it would be cheesy but fun, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears and those massive punches. Instead what I got was an actual film, one which, were it not for the critical and popular downfall of the series through the decades, could easily be considered one of the best films of the year.
The biggest issue with selling Rocky Balboa is history. The original Rocky is a certified classic without a doubt. It was a film about a man who fought for everything and even though he didn't win the fight at the end, won the hearts and minds of the people around him. Parts II-IV on the other hand became more about the fighter than the man, and the emphasis was put on the boxing. And as each film came out, it became more and more cheesy, ending with the Russians cheering for Rocky and him asking why we all can't just get along. Part V of course, never really happened. Rocky Balboa goes back to the feel of the original and isn't about Rocky the fighter, it's about Rocky the man. In fact, the whole fight is almost anti-climactic (although don't tell my audience that - they were cheering at the end of every round.)
For the majority of the film we see Rocky, broken and beaten but still surviving, going through his life. We see him on the anniversary of his wife's passing and he and Paulie go on a history tour through Philadelphia, visiting every place Rocky and Adrian had memories. The best part is, we the audience get to go along on the ride. We get to see the pet store where they first met. We see ice rink where they skated together. We see the apartment they used to live in. It's a trip down memory lane, but not one that goes over the top. It's Rocky and Sylvester Stallone paying respect to what brought us here. Homage is paid to the previous films through the music and through flashback clips (even showing Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago briefly.) It's Stallone saying that this is the final chapter and thanking the audience for being there all along. I truly hope people give this movie a chance because it definitely deserves one.
From the time the opening music started, the goosebumps came. Rocky Balboa is a true film icon, but one which has been tarnished over the years. I think Stallone needed to make this film and give closure to his greatest accomplishment. Instead of going out on down note, he goes out the way he wanted to, not the way others thought he should, and that goes for both the man and the character. Against all odds Stallone came back and surrounded himself with a top notch crew and strong actors so that the movie never crossed that line from serious to parody. There were a lot of laughs for certain, but we were laughing with the characters, not at them. And of course there were plenty of goosebump moments, from the music to the training montage to Rocky running up those stairs to his final moments in the ring. Each moment honored the past and paid tribute to the greatest underdog icon in movie history.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, fan or not, I thought Rocky Balboa was a tremendous movie. Don't go in expecting to see the cheesiness of the last couple of movies. Go in expecting to see a real film about a man who has a fire within him and will do whatever he has to, to live out his dream one last time.
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