Action Movie Review

Rocky Balboa

By Columbia Pictures 

by Ismael Manzano

     The first Rocky movie came out the same year I was born, so you could very accurately say that I grew up watching Rocky.  I donít remember if my father purposely introduced me to this iconic piece of Americana all the while telling me what a great movie it was or whether I just watched the repeats as a child on TV with the adults and fell in love with the movies on my own, but whatever the case, I was always a big fan of the Rocky series, even when the movies did not merit the fandom it received. 

     Flash forward thirty years and four sequels and now you have the release of theóhopefullyólast installment of the Rocky series, simply entitled, Rocky Balboa.  Itís been fifteen years since weíve last seen the Italian Stallion (Sylvester Stallone, of the Rocky and Rambo series) , since that last street brawl with his protťgťe, Tommy Gunn, and a lot has chanced.  For starters, his wife, Adrian, has died of cancer three years ago, his son Rocky Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia, Heroes) is trying to get as far away from his fatherís shadow as possible, Rocky now runs a restaurant aptly named Adrian, and his glory days are long behind him.  With him, as always is Paulie (Burt Young), the annoying brother-in-law with the loud mouth and the blunt wit. 

     Everything has been taken from Rocky in this last installment: family, friends, and his youth.  He lives in the past, telling stories of his former glory in his restaurant, visiting his wifeís grave every day, and on their anniversary, he takes himself on a tour of their relationship, visiting places that have long since been closed down, just to remind himself of her. 

     This movie was actually two stories: Rockyís and that of current heavyweight champion, Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver, The Contender).  Mason, the young, undefeated champion, is ridiculed and despised because heís so good that his fights never last longer than two rounds.  No one wants to see him fight anymore and dissenters claim that heís never been truly tested in the ring.  This is where the movie picks up.  A sports networks shows a computer graphic simulation of what a fight between Rocky in his prime and Mason now would be like, and it shows Rocky winning.  The simulation sparks both Rockyís interest in boxing and Masonís desire to prove something to the public. 

     Somehow Rocky gets his boxing license back and begins to train.  But when Masonís managers hear about this, they jump at the chance to pit the champ against the measuring stick of boxing that is Rocky, and they approach him about an exhibition match.  Reluctant, but excited, Rocky agrees and set out for his final fight ever, all the while, trying to cope with his sonís distance and the loss of his wife.  He finds an unlikely ally in the form of a woman named Marie,( Geraldine Hughes) whom he remembers as a smart-mouthed brat from the neighborhood thirty years ago, and her son Steps (James Francis Kelly III, 7th Heaven), with whom Rocky forms a bound. 

     With his age, his past, his sonís distance, and his own doubts against him, can Rocky overcome the odds yet again?  Can Mason rise to the challenge of an opponent that will not back down and earn the respect of boxing fans around the world?   

     I actually really liked this movie.  Some of you may remember the Rocky rant I wrote several months ago when I first found out about this movie.  In it I stated that the movie could not possibly be any good but that I would see it anyway.  Well, Sly actually surprised me.  The story was good, better than good, actually, it was great.  I wouldnít recommend it for an Oscar, but it had more in it than any Rocky movie Iíve seen since the first one.  It had depth.  Sly even managed to display range as he took the well beloved, simple character into some emotionally jarring places.  Even I admit to being choked up by some of his social commentary speeches about being able to live oneís life and about how time has taken so much from him. 

     What did I like about the movie, you might ask.  Well, I liked how my own concerns and doubts were voiced in the actors in the movie, who never thought that Rocky would be able to last long in the fight.  And ignoring Rockyís no longer damaged brain and his long-winded speeches, I think that this movie did what the other movies have been trying to do since the first one.  Part three was a lame attempt to recreate the magic of Apollo Creed; part four was Rambo in the ring, fighting the evil Russian threat; part five just fell flat.  This movie does what the fifth installment failed to do, strip Rocky down to the barest essentials and transcend the action-driven plots of the two films that came before it. 

     They change the formula enough that it was something new for me, but kept enough of that old formula in it that the diehard fans will still get their kicks from the film.  You gasp when he falls, you clap when his opponent falls, and your heart starts pumping when you hear that iconic music, see him run those stairs and watch him train.  You can not help it; itís written into our DNA. 

     Does Rocky win, is the question Iím sure you all want to know.  Well, I can conclusively say that it does not matter.  The enemy in this film wasnít Mason or poverty or some big Russian or the promoters.  It was Rocky himself and the past that he did not want to let go of.  To quote the movie, ďLifeís not about how hard you hit, itís about how hard you can get hit and keep on going.Ē

     So overall, I think that while this movie may not be a must own or a must-see-over-and-over-again, movie, it definitely must be watched by everyone at least once.  You will not be disappointed. 

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