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It ain’t over ’til it’s over January 19, 2007

Posted 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.

Marie and Rocky

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?”

At the steps again, 30 years later


1. Mike - January 20, 2007

“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.”

Quoted for truth. Until the fight build-up, watching Rocky Balboa was like meeting an old mate again for the first time in years - I wanted to know what he was up to and see he was all right. It all made the actual fight itself a bit unecessary, but the ending made sense and would leave any lover of the series feel warm inside.

It got one star in The Guardian, and I had little argument with the criticisms made, yet I enjoyed it immensely. Guess that makes me a fan…

2. ColinP - January 20, 2007

Is this the Guardian review you refer to Mike?

Can’t say I agree with it, if indeed that’s the whole thing. Bradshaw hardly says a word about the film, and seems he’d rather spend half of his review commenting on Stallone’s age and appearance, a paragraph on Rambo and a paragraph on the title; which, to me, seems to be an easy way out of giving a bad review to something without really saying why.

I felt Rocky Balboa was an enjoyable film - I haven’t seen any of the other sequels but this was a good finale to the series and while, yes it does stretch the bounds of reality, that’s what most big name films are all about.

3. JohnH - January 20, 2007

Not seen this yet, but it does bring to mind the late ’60s computer bout between Mohammed Ali and Rocky Marciano, so while it might stretch the bounds of reality, it at least the premise is based on a precedent.

4. Charlie A - January 22, 2007

Read some decent reviews, some going as far as suggesting that it’s the best sequel yet. Either way, I’m looking forward to watching this one and’ll probably pay a rare trip to my local Odeon Cinema to catch it.

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