Rocky Balboa (2007) dir. Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Ventimiglia
By Alan Bacchus
I managed to miss this one back in 2006. After all, could this film really be any good? Were any of these films made after the 1976 original any good beyond my own nostalgic memories of a child? With these questions in my mind, I didn’t bother to see Rocky 6 – ‘Rocky Balboa’. But having received the full 'Rocky' Blu-Ray set to review, I didn’t have to shill out money to see this one. And so, why not give it a go and close this chapter of cinema history.
This 2006 version of the character has lost most of his wealth he had earned and flaunted in 'Rocky IV', though he’s not the street bum he was in 'Rocky V'. Now he lives in Philly and owns a respectable and profitable restaurant. His two main issues are his son Rocky Jr. who resents his father and his shadow which cannot get out from under, and his late wife Adrienne, who has been two years in the grave.
After an ESPN computerized mock-fight between current heavyweight champion Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon and Rocky causes arguments about who was the better pound-for-pound fighter Rocky induces himself to make a miraculous comeback to face-off with Dixon. Meanwhile Stallone manages to overcome his grief for Adrienne and court another local wallflower, using the same affable awkward charm to find love again.
It’s also virtually impossible to review this film objectively and so, like Stallone's next franchise closer-offer 'Rambo', the mere fact that this film doesn’t royally suck ass is a miracle. The fact that Stallone managed to write and direct another 'Rocky' movie, essentially remaking beat-for-beat the first movie except as an old man, and not making himself look as a fool, both as a director and an actor, is astonishing.
After 10 years in acting purgatory and 21 years since directing his last film ('Rocky IV') 'Rocky Balboa’s a decidedly triumphant effort. Stallone employs an easy-going and relaxed directorial style, with natural performances across the board. Stallone, himself, exercises the same muscles he used in ‘Copland’ portraying new millennium Rocky has a soft-spoken and humble man, but still competitive and determined to achieve his goals.
Stallone admirably updates the milieu of the modern sports scene. His incorporation of ESPN, its commentators and even their cameras and camera set-ups during the climatic boxing match adds a welcomed dose of authenticity which was absent for most of the franchise.
The Rocky movies under Stallone’s directorial watch have always been anchored by their numerous montage scenes. Of course, these scenes have become legendary and sometimes laughable in their repetitive depiction of Rocky’s old school working class training method's to get in shape. But look back at with a creative eye and you’ll find these scenes very precise in composition and editing, and, really, a marvel in rousing cinematic energy.
Stallone’s screenplay which hits all the same beats as his original Oscar-winning film including one fabulous montage scene. Arguably it’s a better film than ‘Rambo’ which fed off the tone of excessive violence of the Rambo sequels as opposed to the tense character-based tension of ‘First Blood’. 'Rocky Balboa' is a legitmate good film