Tonight I went to a special awards screening of Rocky Balboa, the latest (and supposedly final) film in the series of Rocky films. This movie is enjoyable and light – there’s a good message in the film, and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy. But it’s not really a “necessary” film – the series could have ended quite well with Rocky IV. (We all know how unnecessary Rocky V was!)
In the movie, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has lost his way. He’s still coming to terms with the loss of his wife, his son has grown distant from him, and he spends his time running a restaurant (named “Adrian’s”) and regaling the patrons with tales of his former glory. He’s still hanging out with Paulie (Burt Young), who is bitter and tired with Rocky’s constant melancholy. A chance encounter with Marie (the teenager he walked home from the first Rocky film) gives him renewed hope that he can do something good, and help out her and her son.
The fighting plot of the story comes up when a computer simulation pits Rocky (at his prime) against the current undefeated heavyweight champion boxer, Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver) – and Rocky wins. This makes people start to wonder – could he do it? Feeling like he still has one good fight left that he “needs” to get out of him, Rocky decides to apply for a boxing license – and soon he’s considering an exhibition match against Dixon. Will Rocky win? Go see the film and find out!
There’s a laid back pace to the film, which just coasts along safely, until the fight sequences at the end, where the energy really ramps up. Stallone gives a very nice performance as the underdog boxer dealing with internal struggles, and for his age, he’s still in pretty damn good shape. Bill Conti’s score rehashes most of the music from the original film, but it’s still oh-so-good!
Stallone spoke to the audience after the screening, and I found him to be a very candid and honest guy. He spoke of the problems with Rocky V, and how making this film was not an easy decision to make. Most interesting was his answer to my friend’s question about the decision to have Adrian dead when the film begins – apparently in early drafts she was alive, but was such a negative influence (a one-note character, if you will) that Stallone realized he had to kill her off. And the tale of his phonecall with actress Talia Shire was rather funny.
Rocky Balboa is a safe film. It’s a bit predictable, but it’s still a fun journey and in many cases, a trip down memory lane. If you had to watch any of them, I’d suggest Rocky, Rocky IV, then Rocky Balboa. That should pretty much cover the gamut, and you’ll have a good time.