Rocky Balboa - * * *
AndyO review: * * *
When I first heard about "Rocky Balboa," the sixth and final installment of the Rocky movies, it seemed like a joke. How could Sylvester Stallone make another Rocky movie after "Rocky V" was so bad? Was there anything left to tell?
I'm not sure the answer to that last question is an unqualified yes, but somehow Stallone wrote a script that brings back the Rocky that we saw in 1976 -- the same Rocky that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
In this film, Rocky is struggling with the loss of Adrian. He spends his evenings working at his restaurant appropriately named "Adrian's," telling his customers all the old boxing stories and posing for photos. He tries to connect with his son, who is trying to stand as far away from his father's shadow as possible. He wants to help out a woman and her son who are struggling in the neighborhood.
When an ESPN computer program predicts that Rocky would beat the current champ Mason Dixon, a champ who is loathed by the public for fighting easy competitors, the stage is set for an exhibition bout between Dixon and Rocky in Vegas. The entire event is treated like an HBO pay-per-view event, complete with the annoying boxing analyzers Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley. But, somehow, it all works.
In "Rocky Balboa," you can feel that Stallone wants to give Rocky a proper ending -- he wants to make up for Rocky V and all the other false moments in the other Rocky films.The rhythm of the film is slow (almost too slow at times). Character and good acting are more important than the slick filmmaking that peaked in "Rocky IV," with Rocky's battle with the Russian Ivan Drago.
This is a nice surprise.