| The Red Right Hand
Truth be told, when I first heard the go-ahead had been given for Rocky VI I laughed a little and instantly wrote it off. I imagine many did the same. Following the 1976 multi-Academy award winner, four sequels managed to absolutely kill what, at heart, is an extremely original character. Sitting in the cinema, with a due sense of dread, I was not only pleasantly surprised but extremely entertained and moved by what I was shown. Rocky Balboa proves that Stallone's character needed one last word before fading out of the limelight. With the successful reviews of his performance in Spy Kids 3D, Stallone's pitch for another stab at the Rocky series got the green light. One of the beautiful things about this character is his ability to speak truthfully and act completely selflessly; the kind of simple guy you would initially be intimidated by but love to have as a friend.
Rocky has moved on since his last outing. His old sparing partners are dead, his trainer is dead and his beloved wife, Adrian, is dead. His son barely wants anything to do with him and his brother-in-law, Paulie, is still a whiney jerk. Despite all this, Rocky runs a successful little restaurant in Philadelphia and is still recognised as the people's champ. The more he goes on, the more he sees the town he loves changing around him; the names, the faces, even the buildings have changed. The current heavy-weight champion, Mason Dixon (played by light heavyweight fighter, Antonio Tarver), is going through a bad patch, the only competition presented to him are poor matches and the people are losing interest. A computer simulated fight, broadcast on television, sparks up a major debate as to whether Dixon would be able to handle himself with the likes of a 'real' champion like Rocky Balboa. Words are said, deals signed and an exhibition fight is organised to be held in Las Vegas. Now, that's the premise of the story but for those that are put off this film because they don't like boxing, it needs to be said, the first Rocky and Rocky Balboa focus on boxing in the last thirty minutes. Rocky has always been an underdog's story, showing the heart, commitment and dedication of a man trying to prove his worth by working his way out of the gutters. In Rocky II, a re-match was held and Rocky won the title. Subsequently, the series went downhill because the story always focussed on proving one's worth, both to self and the public. For all intents and purposes, there need only be two Rocky films, the 1976 original and (surprisingly) this one. I think this is what Stallone was shooting for with Rocky V but his character has only been out of the scene for a little while, it wasn't nearly long enough.
For a sixty year old, Stallone is in amazing shape. Sure, he looks grizzled, his skin is clinging to his flesh and his veins dangerously protrusive but it doesn't matter because he still carries an air of strength and power, which is what we need to see in a man who is supposed to go 13 rounds with a thirty-something year old in peak condition. This new installment is a tribute to the legacy of a fictional boxer but that's not to say that everything is picture-perfect. A lot of the acting can come off as cheesy and cliche. Similarly, Milo Ventimiglia, who plays Rocky's son, does the best he can (despite an oddly imitated droopy lip) but the part seems a little too typical of a character crawling out from his Father's monolithic shadow for him to really go anywhere with it. The side-story of Rocky befriending Marie [Geraldine Hughes] isn't overly necessary to the plot but it shows a side of the character that those new to the series will not know; heart. He talks to her, visits daily, helps out in any way he can, even gives both her and her son a job at his restaurant, expecting nothing in return. His speeches have a tendency to lose both meaning and sense at some points but that's alright because of the conviction with which they're delivered; even the character himself comments on it by saying, "Yo, when was the last time you went dancing? Has it been a while? 'Cause you're dancing around all these problems, you might as well come and dance with me. Now, I ain't that good but, y'know, I'm probably better than your average bear. Where that came from, I dunno." The camerawork is also rather well handled, combining straight shots, shaky-cam work, black and white shots with spot colour picks and a very real-to-life HBO covered prize fight. This film has exceptional heart and really does show that Stallone still has it in him to write, direct and act in a fantastic piece.
19th January 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
I'm cut between Rocky's classic 80's training montage and a scene set shortly after re-meeting Marie. A guy and his girls start calling after them, jeering and insulting them. He gets into the van saying, "Hey, don't listen to them." Then realises that she's hurt and that no one should have to be treated that way. She tells him it's alright. He turns off the ignition and says, "No, little Marie. It ain't alright." It's a simple moment but shows Rocky's yearning for a better world, in which everyone is respected but that he can only execute it in one way. OH! There was also a scene in an "Irish Pub" but I don't want to get started on that. I will, however, say this. I've been in many 'Irish Pub/Bars' and allow me to tell you they're all ludicrous. The only "Irish pubs" I've set foot in have been in Dublin and Sligo. Anywhere else, is just a pub painted green with some James Joyce on the bloody walls but I don't mind. This pub had nothing Irish, at all. It was just called an Irish pub... that kind of stuff irritates me.
To choose anyone over Rocky would be pretty ridiculous. There are some glowing performances but it's usually only because of the way in which they play off the lead. Plus, he drank a glass of raw eggs again!
"Let me tell you something you already know; the world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it. You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life"
In A Few Words:
"Rocky remains the greatest original on-screen sports character ever created. If you only see two sports films, make sure they're Rocky and Rocky Balboa"