It ain’t over ’til it’s over January 19, 2007Posted by jackal in : Films , trackback
By succeeding in his quest to get a sixth and final Rocky movie made a full sixteen years after the previous instalment, and creating a critical and box-office hit in the process, Sly Stallone finds himself riding a career comeback worthy of his fictional Philly fighter. In recent years Stallone’s stock has plummeted in Hollywood, and one can understand the reluctance of studio executives to greenlight yet another Rocky movie, in which the long-retired champ comes back for one last fight - at almost sixty. On paper it’s laughable, and yet Stallone’s passion for the character and belief in the story elevate Rocky Balboa to much more than just another silly boxing film. It’s an inspiring story about redemption, about never giving up on your dreams, proving your worth in a changing world, and how “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
With key cast members returning from the previous films (Burt Young, Tony Burton) and familiar music from Bill Conti, Rocky Balboa slips easily back into the groove of the franchise. Stallone himself, as if writing, directing and starring weren’t enough, continues to train himself into fantastic shape for each successive Rocky. I have huge respect for the guy: at the age of sixty he remains in phenomenal condition. Other stars may go to seed or cut back training to become Governor of California, but Stallone just keeps right on going like he forgot he was supposed to get old.
The film itself exceeded all my expectations. From the opening scenes, it recaptures the same everyday, working-class Philadelphia of the 1976 original, and the numerous nods to past events as well as return appearances from long-forgotten characters are welcome. Stallone tells his story simply and slowly, infusing it with gentle humour throughout, but crafts Rocky’s emotional journey beautifully: this is what gives Rocky Balboa its heart. The movie isn’t about the flashy fight, the adrenaline-pumping training montage, or any of the other trademark touches; all of these are present, and excellent they are too, but at the movie’s core is Rocky. It’s all about the two-bit heavy from Philly who made a name for himself back in the day and now, ageing and facing life alone, finds that the only way to prove his worth to the world - and to himself - is to return one last time to the thing he does best. Cue: the training montage to end all montages, and a climactic fight sequence against the reigning world champion that so perfectly ends Rocky’s 30-year journey, all but the most cold-hearted viewer will have a tear (or several) in his eye by the end.
Rocky Balboa is Stallone’s baby. This is the character that brought him fame, and has remained the closest to him of all his screen creations. He’s said that after the disastrous Rocky V he couldn’t just sit back and let his favourite character go out with a whimper. Well, he got his final chance and against all the odds, he hit it for a home run. This isn’t a ‘great’ film as critics would rate ‘em, but it’s truly great entertainment, a movie for the fans, straight from the heart. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Rocky, Jr: ”You’re crazy!”
Rocky: ”What’s crazy about standing toe-to-toe and saying I am?”