Already in theatres ROCKY BALBOA (Sylvester Stallone). 102 minutes. For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
When Rocky V, the I Am Sam of the series, hit screens 16 years ago, Mad Magazine parodied the pasture-bound Italian Stallion with a cartoon of him battling the Grim Reaper.
Certainly the idea of a sixth Rocky is laughably bad. But Rocky Balboa is a surprisingly poignant and mostly successful swing at late-career redemption, both for the character and for Sylvester Stallone.
Here's a round-by-round rundown of Stallone's fight to make Balboa and himself relevant to an audience not yet born when Rocky took the best picture Oscar 30 years ago.
Round 1 Cue the Bill Conti theme every jogger's hummed at least once.
We learn what's put Rocky on the emotional ropes - his wife is dead and Rocky Jr. wants out from under Dad's shadow. Rocky's pretty much where he was before he ever fought Apollo Creed - alone and empty and angry at the world, with only turtles Cuff and Link and drunken brother-in-law Paulie ( Burt Young ) for companionship.
Stallone's acting. He's physically convincing, sure - he looks like a sculpture of Atlas carved from cheese that's been left in the sun - but this is the first time since his original Oscar-nominated turn that he delivers an actual performance.
Rocky is drawn back into the ring to fight the unpopular undefeated champ, Mason "the Line" Dixon (real-life champ Antonio Tarver ), in a Las Vegas exhibition bout. Stallone, who also penned the script, undercuts the absurdity by making his age an (intentionally humorous) issue in the film.
Rounds 5 to 7
The requisite Rocky training montage: raw eggs are swilled, iron is pumped and those famous Philadelphia steps are climbed.
With Paulie in his corner, Balboa squares off against Dixon. Stallone, who also directed Rocky II, III and IV, brings a fresh, live-on-pay-per-view feeling to the fights that previous Rocky movies lack.
There's something in this critic's eye - is it blood? No wait, it's nostalgia.
Stallone says this, a worthy bookend to a saga that began strongly, is the last Rocky movie. He's planning a fourth Rambo movie. If it's as enjoyable as Rocky Balboa, I, for one, can't wait.