Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rocky Balboa Returns!

I went to see Rocky Balboa yesterday... the first showing at the local theatre. I am huge Rocky fan and have been watching since I was a little kid. My family will attest that the number of times I've seen each one cant be accounted for ;)

Like everyone else, I felt Rocky V was a complete disappointment. Of course like everyone else, I thought this would be a complete joke when I first heard of it. That was until I saw the trailer. From that point on, I said it might work.

Rocky Balboa, the sixth and final installment of the series goes back to its roots. It will remind you in many ways of the original. The movie evolves a bit slowly but with good reason. We find out that Rocky's wife has since passed and you can sense the grief that Rocky has. We are re-introduced to Paulie providing the necessary comic relief as Rocky is in mourning on the anniversary of his wife's passing. Rocky revisits a lot of the old stomping grounds in Philly and Adrian appears in an almost ghostlike manner. Rocky is basically living in the past remembering the good times... the better times.

Rocky now keeps himself busy with a small local restaurant named after his wife. It's an Italian restaurant and most of the patrons are there to remember the old times and hear Rocky tell stories of his past. Rocky puts a sport coat over his sweatshirt and plays the nice guy... shaking hands and visiting each table many times repeating the same stories and then posing for photos.

Rocky's son Robert (played by Milo Ventimiglia) is also reintroduced to the viewing audience. He's grown and is trying to make it in the corporate world but somehow feels that his father's fame and name have kept him from achieving greater success. The distant relationship is seen as Rocky makes attempts to visit his son and maybe grab a cup of coffee only to be brushed off as quickly as he came. On his way out, you can see that Rocky is still revered in the community stopping to sign autographs and always treating people to a hello.

Rocky really only has his son and Paulie left in his life. You can feel the sense of loss and lonliness with his wife gone, his career over, and his son's distant relationship. Rocky can't let go and even Paulie urges the former champ to stop looking back.

Rocky revisits some old stomping grounds in Philly below the tracks and even takes a look at Mick's gym which now is severely rundown. He stops at a local pub where we meet another old friend, "little Marie" back from the original movie. Marie is all grown up and on a bad streak of her own, struggling to get by but still a friendly face... even if she told Rocky "screw you, creepo" the last time they saw each other. Rocky, always being the nice guy, offers a helping hand and a ride home trying to find the best in a bad situation.

It seemed as though things were just going day by day until an episode of ESPN hit the airwaves with the basic question, "What if?" What if the current heavyweight champion Mason "The Line" Dixon (real-life boxer Antonio Tarver) fought Rocky "The Italian Stallion" Balboa in their prime? Who would win? A computer program that matches athletes from different eras predicted Rocky as the winner.

The current champ is seen as greedy and too good for the modern day, watered down version of boxing. Mason Dixon is going through opponents with ease but the fans have lost interest and turned on the champ who is seen as money hungry, cocky and not the true warrior that a Rocky Balboa used to be.

The film used real-life commentators and analysts who then discussed the possible outcome. The analysis was split and it definitely stirred things up within Rocky.

With all the things going on in his life, Rocky doesnt have a way to express himself. Rocky isnt a writer or a man of words. He's a fighter, and fighters fight. That's the only way he ever got rid of pain or anger so the question begins to creep up in his mind. He goes to his friend and confidant, Paulie who of course thinks he's crazy but as Rocky says "there's still stuff in the basement" referring to his heart and feelings. There's a "beast" within him that needs to be fed. Paulie leaves Rocky without support mocking him in much the same way we as viewers do but now we realize why he would want to. Rocky then goes to discuss the idea with his son who also dismisses his desires with little regard.

Rocky, just wanting to do some local club fighting attempts to get his boxing license on his own. Even though he has passed the necessary medical exams, he is turned down by the boxing commission. We are left with Rocky arguing his case fighting for his dream. The boxing commission listens to the compelling argument and grants Rocky his license.

The news flies all over and eventually toward the direction of the current heavyweight champ and his promoters. The champ dismisses the news and even the thought of a match but the promoters tell him that there's no money to be had in Pay Per View and the ESPN prediction has left a lot of people...well... curious. There was money to be had and they want to angle an exhibition in order to help the champ's reputation.

Before you know it, we have our Rocky montage going and we get to hear Gonna Fly Now one last time. Apollo's former trainer makes a return and strategizes a training regiment that will allow Rocky to throw some "hurtin bombs." The strategy is power and nothing more... to make the champ feel pain with any punch that is landed.

Rocky's son, Robbie comes to confront his father about the decision to fight... especially after hearing everyone around him talking about how Rocky is going to get killed in the ring. Robbie is falling under his father's shadow once again not being able to hold on to his own identity and blaming his father. Rocky, still feeling the pain and hurt tells his son that somewhere along the lines Robbie has changed. Rocky leaves his son with words of wisdom that life will always be cruel, hit you, and try to knock you down but its not how hard you hit back but how hard of a punch you can take. The words are left ringing and do manage to change his son's views and eventually win him over.

"Why is this called an exhibition? Because otherwise it would be called an execution." These are the words of real announcers ringside for the fight.

The weigh-in, opening moments and introductions as well as the first round are all shot as a real PPV fight with official HBO logos and tale of the tape. We are even given a cameo by Mike Tyson sitting along ringside.

Rocky Balboa brings a sentimental finish to the series and brings us back to the roots of the 1976 original. The movie may not win any awards in the box office but it will your heart if you are a Rocky fan or fanatic like me.


Official Site:

Official Trailer:

Interview: Sylvester Stallone

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