Reviewed by: John DeYoung
|Featuring:||Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes|
|Producer:||Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone|
|Distributor:||MGM Distribution Company|
“It ain’t over 'til it’s over.”
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!” Rocky says to his son in “Rocky Balboa.”
The Italian Stallion is back and better than ever. Sylvester Stallone returns as the fighting Philadelphian and former two-time heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Balboa. After taking on the likes of Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and Tommy ‘The Machine’ Gunn, Rocky is now a widowed restaurateur. Losing his wife, Adrian, previously portrayed by Talia Shire, to cancer, Rocky names his establishment after her and tells stories of his glory days to customers. However, when a virtual boxing match appears on ESPN pitting Rocky against the current heavyweight champ, Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon, played by former light heavyweight champion, Antonia Tarver, Rocky feels the need to get back in the ring in order to deal with the beast within him.
After being approved for a boxing license, Rocky’s return to the ring is met with some skepticism including from his own son, portrayed by “Heroes” and “Gilmore Girls” star, Milo Ventimiglia. Rocky Jr.’s motives are not for the safety of his 50 something year old father but because he is tired of living under the shadow of his old man. Now with his father stepping in the ring once more, he feels he will never truly make it on his own merits. It is at this point Rocky gives his son the life lecture. His brother-in-law, Paulie, played Rocky alum actor, Burt Young, also felt it was time for Rocky to stop living in the past and go on with his life now that Adrian was gone.
Along with the cynicism, there were some who did support Rocky’s decision to fight again such as Marie, played by Geraldine Hughes, an acquaintance from Rocky’s old neighborhood. She is now a single mother trying to make ends meet with a teenage boy named Steps, played by James Francis Kelly III. Rocky befriends both Marie and her son and helps them out by giving them a job at his restaurant. However, the one person who was most excited about Rocky’s return was Mason’s manager, L.C, played by E! Mysteries and Scandals host, A.J. Benza. The virtual boxing match got people talking which was why L.C. approached the former champ to be a part of an exhibition bout with his champ. It was also a chance to prove to the world that Dixon was no “paper champion.” Rocky accepts the challenge.
Finally with his troops together including his former trainer Duke, played by another Rocky alum, Tony Burton, along with his son, Steps and Paulie, Rocky begins his training to turn him into a human hurting machine, but will it be enough for him to go toe to toe with Dixon, or for that matter, survive the ordeal entirely?
According to Stallone, “Rocky Balboa” is the closing chapter of the Rocky saga. If this is the case, then Stallone ended it wonderfully. Shades of the original Rocky movie were definitely apparent as the emotion and intensity, which were in the original, can also be seen in this final chapter. It was as if Stallone, who wrote and directed this film along with the other Rocky films, was able to recreate the greatness of the original Rocky. As for Stallone’s performance as the aging Balboa, he didn’t miss a step. It was like stepping back in time and seeing the character for the first time all over again. The only difference was “Yo Adrian!” became “No Adrian!” However, the death of his wife storyline, I think, helped make the Rocky character a little more human.
As for the supporting performers, it was hard to decipher what kind of challenger Tarver’s Mason Dixon character was to be. In one moment in the movie, Dixon gets his old trainer back that his manager threw away like an old shoe, then he is talking smack to Rocky. In some ways it was confusing, but in other ways, Stallone came up with an opponent that wasn’t so one dimensional like Mr. T’s animal-like adversary, Clubber Lang in Rocky III or Dolph Lundgren’s unstoppable machine like opponent Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Dixon was a more complex opponent and more believable.
What was also wonderful about the film was how Stallone incorporated, what I like to call, the faith factor. As part of his corner crew, Rocky brings along “Spider” Rico, portrayed by another former boxer Pedro Lovell, as his spiritual advisor. Before going out to take on Dixon, Rocky is sitting in his dressing room while Rico is reading scripture verses to him. In his restaurant, Rico always gets a free meal from Rocky until he takes it upon himself to start washing dishes for Rocky telling him, “Jesus wants me to work.”
“Rocky Balboa” is a must see. There is some profanity in it, but it doesn’t take away the essence of the movie. It is a story that shows that as long as a person has the fire and the faith, they can take on anything. Stallone said it best, in an interview with Christianity Today Movies. Com, “I just want to show that the heart is the last thing to age in somebody.” On a grading scale, I give “Rocky Balboa!” an A.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None