Rocky is my favorite movie character of all time. There’s something about his extremely relatable problems that have led me to connect with him in a way that I simply cannot do with any other character. Instead of taking the time to review every single Rocky movie, I’ve decided to take a look at one of the more underappreciated films in the franchise, Rocky Balboa. A film that no one really wanted to make after the disaster that was Rocky V. A movie that really had no business being any good.
Rocky Balboa follows Rocky many years after the events of Rocky V. He’s a much older guy now who spends his days working at his restaurant, simply called Adrian’s in honor of his now dead Wife. We take a look at a Rocky who doesn’t really see much purpose in his life. While he still has his best friend Paulie, he feels lost and lonely. After doing some reflecting on his life, he decides to give boxing one more shot. On the road to that fight we take a melancholic look down memory lane. There are references to plenty of events from the past movies that can certainly stir up some nostalgia. We get a last look at Rocky reaching out and trying to spread some joy to the people around him. Even at this age, it’s clear that Stallone can play the lovable oaf better than just about everyone.
One of the things that has always stuck out about Rocky is his ability to motivate me as an audience member. In the past films he would have at least one quote that really sticks with me. It makes Rocky easily the most quotable movie character of all time. There is definitely no shortage of that in this movie. Two times in this film Rocky speaks from the heart and it hits home so well. The first was when he was on his way to get his boxing license. After completing everything necessary to get his license, he was denied it because of his age. When he is denied, Rocky speaks about how people shouldn’t have the right to deny you something that you’ve worked for. It’s a message that can speak volumes to anyone. I’ll even post it here because it’s something people should watch.
The next time his wisdom comes out is in the inspirational speech that has been played and referenced many times. In the film Rocky’s son is a lot older now. He’s doing okay in his life, but always feels like he’s in the shadow of Rocky. He feels like people tolerate him only because he’s Rocky’s son. When Rocky decides he’s going to take a fight against the best pound for pound fighter, Mason “The Line” Dixon, his son confronts him to beg him not to do it. When Rocky begins to understand what the problem is, he hits him with some lines about how life isn’t easy. The famous “it aint about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward” line came out of this. After all of these years watching this character grow, this was the perfect message for Rocky to give someone. It’s also a testament to who he’s been the entire time that the audience has known him. I’ll post this too just in case you haven’t seen it. This is definitely a must watch.
This all builds up to what is Rocky’s final boxing match. In the past, the Rocky movies would cast other actors to play Rocky’s opponent, but this time they went out and got Antonio Tarver to play Mason Dixon. Adding a fantastic boxer like Tarver should make the boxing choreography a lot better in the final fight.When the fight starts you can immediately tell the difference. The first thing you notice is how jacked Stallone is despite being 60 in this movie. You also notice that the punches look a lot less like movie punches. Obviously they aren’t hitting each other for real or Stallone would have been murdered, but you can tell there was a bit more contact than in the other films. The fight itself never really hits the intensity of the previous big fights, but the emotion is there. Rocky understands he’s outmatched in skill and speed, but he knows this is his only chance to let out all of his built up emotion. Paulie even tells him to make sure that he lets everything out. It’s a touching moment between 2 friends.
Overall, I love Rocky. This might not be the best Rocky movie ever made, but it had the emotional weight that the others had and then some. Stallone pulls a performance out that has passionate delivery. It feels so true to the character and pays respect to the franchise in a way that I didn’t think it would be able to do. It was an excellent little story that effectively ended the boxing career of Rocky Balboa, and allowed the audience to properly say goodbye to him. But was it really goodbye? As we now know, it was more like a see you later…
Rocky Balboa gets an 80/100