Release Date: December 20, 2006
Rocky Balboa? Seriously? The world of boxing needed a warrior with great heart and determination, and this is all they could come up with? Or maybe someone in Hollywood needed a story for a film and they just couldn’t conjure up anything original. Either way, the Italian Stallion is back for one more round in Rocky Balboa, the sixth film in a series that started with glory and has since been knocked around a bit.
There is a strong likelihood that critics, and some fans, won’t give Balboa a fighting chance this Christmas, seeing as there will be plenty of other films out there to see. Plus, if you’ve seen the trailer to this flick, then you can pretty much guess how it goes down. Rocky mopes around Philadelphia, mourning the death of Adrian while the current heavyweight champion of the world, Mason Dixon, is loathed by fans due to a lack of competition. Leave it to ESPN to stir the pot a bit by showing a virtual fight between has-been Balboa and current champ Dixon in which Rocky wins. Throw in some sports agents keen on making that almighty dollar and all of the sudden a bout is born, and Rocky must once again find a way to get back up after being hit so hard for so long.
Now there are plenty of reasons not to see this film; the hokey story about a fight coming out of a video game simulation, the fact that Rocky would be well into his fifties by now and even the fact that Sylvester Stallone has chosen to write and direct. The last time Stallone wrote and directed a Rocky flick, Rocky IV. He won a Razzie for worst director that year. Needless to say, this film is instantly going to take jabs from every angle.
But if you do happen to take a chance on Rocky this holiday season, and you can bear the first two thirds of the film, you will be aptly rewarded. The film starts out extremely slow, showing the bum that used to be Rocky, a man that sits at his dead wife’s grave daily, takes a depressing tour each year of all of the historical places of his life and never gets to see the son that is trying to get out from underneath his shadow. It is just plain depressing to watch at first, but it is ultimately palatable. The reason why is because, in classic form, Sly Stallone still has that Rocky charm. He goes from being a slouch one moment to an uplifting monologue about being a champion the next. He is still a bit slow, still very socially awkward and yet he is still very lovable.
That lovable old Rocky is what carries the first two thirds of this film, keeping the audience interested until the moment we’ve all been waiting for, until it is time to rumble! All at once, the music blares and the training montage, a classic element of Rocky glory, begins and leads us all the way up to the big finale, the big fight between the champion of the past and the champion of the present.
The fight scene is uplifting, showing that the Rocky movies still have the ability to give me butterflies in my stomach and make me cheer. It is a finish that makes up for what the rest of the film lacks. So if you need help deciding whether or not to take a chance on this version of Rocky, allow me to help, I say take the chance. Stallone still has what it takes to make Rocky the peoples champ, and while the film is by no means a knockout, it will certainly be right there ’til the final round.
Final Grade: B+
The Upside: Stallone can still make this simple minded, socially awkward guy a charming champion of the people.
The Downside: The film takes so long to pick up the pace, mucking around in plot development for way too long.
On the Side: Sage Stallone turned down the chance of reprising his role of Robert ‘Rocky’ Balboa Junior, which he played in Rocky V, due to prior obligations with his film company Grindhouse Releasing.