The movie starts off, like any Rocky movie should. With a crowd chanting “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky!”, and the famed Rocky theme song. Right from the get-go, Rocky Balboa brought you right back to where we were years ago, wanting Rocky to win, and win big.
The first line we hear Rocky say is “Time goes by too fast”, as he leaves his departed wife’s grave. Too true is this statement, from the man who’s been playing Rocky for the last 30 years. Sylvester Stallone, in all his 60 year old glory, is still someone who’s on my “not to mess with” list.
This movie has a lot of things that I don’t remember the past Rocky movies having:
- Excellent acting
- A great story line
- An emotional script.
Now, given, there’s things that you should expect, going into the movie:
- Boxing (obviously)
- Sylvester Stallone one-liners
- Flashbacks of Mickey yelling things like “Get up Rock”, and “Run him over”
I half went into the movie, expecting a joke. Which is befitting, as that’s what most of the people in the movie think of Rocky’s return to fighting. When the opening credits began to roll, and I saw “Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone”, I got a bit nervous. I wasn’t aware that he wrote and directed the flick, I thought he just added “creative input” into the script. So, I was half expecting some boring script, with no storyline, or character depth. Proven wrong, on all counts.
This isn’t just a movie about boxing. This isn’t just a movie about the comeback of a former champion boxer, by any means. This is a movie about family, about hope, about not giving up, and about believing in yourself, when no one else does.
We find Rocky, 3 years after Adrian’s death, running a small restaurant in Philly (aptly named after his late wife), where he tells his customers stories about how great his fights used to be. We feel empathetic for our hero as we follow him through the first 45 minutes of the movie, learning about how Adrian died of “woman cancer”, how his son’s too busy to spend time with him now, how he has something “deep down in the basement” that he needs to get out. We feel bad for Rocky, for how things are now. Knowing how great of a champ he was, knowing that he may never get that one last k.o. out of his system.
When faced with the prospect of an “Exhibition” match againast the current (and not very well liked) champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon, he decides to just go for it, and begins training. Just seeing the sheer size of Stallone is enough to make me think that he really did a lot of training for this role. For a sixty year old man, he’s definitely in better shape than I’ll ever be in my life.
I would go out on a limb and say that this is one of the best roles that Stallone’s acted in, in many years. Not just Stallone, but the entire cast was fantastic. Burt Young slipped back into his perfect depiction of Paulie (which he last played in 1990), the loveable, yet drunken brother of Rocky’s late wife. Though my favorite cast member is the “new” Rocky Jr., played by Milo Ventimiglia (from TV’s “Heroes”, and “Gilmore Girls”). I’m not sure why Stallone didn’t bring real life son Sage back to play Rocky Jr. again. Most likely because Sage is now in his 30’s, and wouldn’t fit the role. While Ventimiglia is in his late 20s, he doesn’t look his age. A curse I myself am plagued with.
In addition to a fantastic cast, the storyline had things I didn’t expect, and absolutely loved. A true story of rooting for the underdog. The underdog in life, not just in the boxing match. You get to the end of the movie, and you don’t care whether Rocky won or lost the match, because you realize it’s not at all important, nor the point of the movie. The point is to prove a similar point as the recent hit The Pursuit of Happyness: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
The sum up- this movie is fantastic. It’s not a boxing movie, at all. Yes, there’s boxing it in, but that’s not what the movie is about. This movie has heart, and emotion, and brings a breath of life back into movies that feel like they’re made just to make money. Rocky Balboa is an amazing movie that should not be missed.
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