Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), the one-time world heavyweight boxing champ, spends his evenings telling old fight stories to the patrons of his restaurant, Adrian's, named after his late wife, whom he quietly mourns. His grown up son (Milo Ventimiglia) complains of being in his shadow ...and his old trainer & friend Paulie (Burt Young) is sick of Rocky living in the past. Mason 'The Line' Dixon (Antonio Tarver) is the reigning heavyweight champion, losing popularity for the ease with which he dispatches opponents. Until a computer simulation matches him against Rocky Balboa in his prime. Dixon's management has the audacious idea to revitalize their client's career with an exhibition match in Las Vegas - against Rocky. For Rocky, nearly twice the age of his opponent, the prospect of a fight with Dixon is a chance for the last fight that's left in him.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The old bastard's done it again. Sylvester Stallone has done with this film what his character does in the movie: he has come out and delivered that last fight that all fighters are supposed to have left in them. The first Rocky in 1976 (!) collected Best Picture and two other Oscars, plus nominations in seven other categories. Rocky V was made in 1990, but the sequels were support bouts compared to the original - and compared to this superbly structured, emotional heavyweight of a drama.
We believe everything in this film, from Rocky Balboa's painful grief to his mumbling, aimless life as a small time restaurant owner. We believe the gently built tale of a budding relationship with a woman at his old bar, and the way this intersection of his life turns into something that gives him a sense of meaning. And how the emotions he finds swirling around 'in the basement' of his very being give him the very same life lessons that he is trying to give his son.
Here, too, the relationship is sensitively crafted, turning the predictable into a meaningful part of the story. Stallone directs with great verve, starting slowly and building carefully to make sure we keep up - emotionally and with character development.
It's a bit over an hour into the film before Rocky gets to start training, when we are reminded of the iconic jog up the long stairway of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in his track suit to the adrenaline pumping score originated by Bill Conti. It's not used again until the end credits, a symbol of the restraint that marks much of the film's approach, including its controlled triumphal.
Stallone shows us Rocky the ageing fighter from all angles, but when the exhibition match begins, he really takes the gloves off, in a manner of speaking. There are many boxing films that show us heart-pumping fights, but this one is up there with the most spectacular, a technical knock-out of cinematic achievement, which carries a mother-lode of emotional payoffs, like giant firecrackers at a Chinese celebration. Heart and muscle are again fused in (and for) Rocky Balboa.
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ROCKY BALBOA (M)
CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Geraldine Hughes, Antonio Tarver, James Francis Kelly III, Tony Burton, Henry G. Sanders,
PRODUCER: William Chartoff, Kevin King, Charles Winkler, David Winkler
DIRECTOR: Sylvester Stallone
SCRIPT: Sylvester Stallone
CINEMATOGRAPHER: J. Clark Mathis
EDITOR: Sean Albertson
MUSIC: Bill Conti
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Franco-Giacomo Carbone
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 22, 2007