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Rocky Balboa Review

Published December 20, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Sony.
Rocky Balboa Poster Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa may not be good, but it's highly entertaining. Stallone still knows how to make a crowd pleaser. If a room full of bitter old journalists can cheer and applaud a noon screening, then maybe Stallone knows a lot more about residual heart than us skeptics give him credit for.

Review: Rocky Balboa


Rocky is now a widower running a restaurant in Philly. His son avoids him and Paulie still complains about everything. He basically relives the past telling boxing stories to customers and visiting his run down old haunts, until an ESPN computer simulation suggests Rocky in his prime could beat the current champ, Mason Dixon (subtle name, huh?) The opportunity to have a real exhibition match gives Rocky something to fight for again.

Forget that in Rocky V he was one punch away from a brain hemorrhage. The film addresses everything we've been thinking about coming back to this territory. You're living in the past, Sly. Well, he's kind of admitting it. You're too old to keep doing this. Well, yeah, that's the point. All the medical, social and ethical facets of this comeback are addressed satisfactorily.

The real joy of the film is just seeing Rocky again. How often do you get to see a sequel to one of your childhood franchises? Star Wars doesn't even count because they had all new people and newfangled styles. Superman Returns may be the closest comparison.



Just hearing the music, seeing Rocky stroll around in his fedora and jacket, basking in the community love where he's a local hero is a treat. You do feel sorry for the reflective lonely widower and Rocky's nostalgia rubs off. You want to see the skating rink again. When he gives a crying, mumbly, slurry speech, it's like the good old times.

Reality hits Rocky in a delightful way too. He's still so traditional but he's faced with things like single mothers with mixed race children. There's no judgment, but he's just so innocent.

Most importantly, the training montage is awesome. Running, weights, pull-ups, more weights, beating a tire, keg lifts, meat slabs and raw eggs. YES!

The ultimate fight has a real narrative to it. It's the traditional beating/recovery that rouses you up for the inevitable comeback. This time, there are real mortal stakes as well. Remember, Stallone wanted to kill Rocky at the end of V. The beating he takes here, could he go there again?

The fight is shot like a Pay Per View, so it's not particularly artistic. Maybe that's the point, but throwing in some black and white frames doesn't change the fact that it essentially looks like watching TV.

Practically every line of dialogue is a slogan. People just spout metaphors at each other or inspirational bumper stickers. Any one of them may be good, but it does seem a tad desperate. The inclusion of mouthy teens is awkward, as if Stallone really knows modern street talk."

But for a last hurrah, Stallone really proved he's still got it. He can still do heart, drama, spectacle and underdogs. So what the hell happened with Driven?


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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Sony.
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