But after that the movies went downhill, generating a huge amount of ridicule and flak for the general direction in which the Rocky franchise was heading . Everyone thought that Stallone must have finally lost when he decided to direct yet anther sequel. There was plenty of adversity he had to face, with media, studios and even the public. But according to Sly ( whose career was following a slump similar to Rocky's ) , he just had to make this movie and give a fitting end to one of the most memorable and endearing characters ever created .
The Verdict ?
But surprisingly , this turns out to be the best Rocky movie since the original one was released three decades ago !
The movie opens with a fight scene between Mason "The Line " Dixon (Antonio Tarver) and an unnamed opponent and ends with the audience booing and the commentator stating that boxing needs a fighter with a heart .When the scene fades out to shots of the streets of Philadelphia , with the "take you back" Capella in the background , you know that this is true blue , old-school Rocky. Just the way we've always liked it .
To cut a long story short , rocky is now way past his prime and now runs a restaurant ( Adrian's) and is happy enough to entertain the patrons with impromptu stories of his fights . Adrian has died of cancer , and Butkus is also long gone . Rocky's relationship with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) is strained because Robert has always had to live under the shadow of his famous father; he even believes that the only reason he was hired for his latest job was because of his last name.Also , Rocky reunites with "Little" Marie( Geraldine Hughes), who was last seen in the original film receiving advice form Rocky about not mixing with the wrong types . Marie works as a bartender, and has a son, Stephenson (nicknamed "Steps").
One fine day ESPN broadcasts a show titled "Then and Now," which It portrays a computer simulation of a fight between Rocky in his prime and the current heavyweight champion, Mason Dixon. In the Balboa-Dixon simulation, Balboa is predicted to have won KO13, a fact that riles the champion. Dixon's promoters try to sell Dixon on the idea of a fight with Balboa . It would be a win-win charity fight, where Dixon could not only improve his image with the public , but also please fight fans who would be able to see that Dixon would easily defeat the aging icon that is Rocky Balboa.
Dixon's promoters approach Rocky at his restaurant to pitch the fight with Dixon. He reluctantly takes up the offer after conferring with the ever grumpy Paulie(Burt Young ), who as usual is still mad at life and himself for not caring about his sister. Everyone close to him cannot believ that he would take up boxing again, but Rocky feels that he still has one last fight in him . with his wife dead, he's alone, he's an embarrassment to his son, he has nothing to lose and is desperate to not make a third act of his life go in anonymity.
At one point, his son asks Rocky: "Don't you think you're too — ya know, old?" Rocky replies: "Yeah but ya think ya oughta stop 'trying things' 'cause ya had a few too many birthdays? I don't." He adds: "What's crazy with standin' toe to toe sayin' 'I AM.' "
Rocky returns to his old trainer, "Duke" Evers (Tony Burton). Duke tells Rocky that, since his body is much too old and beginning to deteriorate, he cannot train for speed. Instead, Rocky must train to build power ("buildin' some hurtin' bombs").
At this point , the mandatory "Rocky Training Montage" kicks in , with a revamped "Gonna Fly now" theme.All those classic moments are there , including the raw eggs, punching the meat and the run up the steps of the museum .Truly electrifying stuff that had me riveted to the screen . The build up to the fight is presented like a live sports presentation and the fight itself is top-notch stuff and highly realistic . IMHO , even better than Million Dollar Baby or Raging Bull. Along with the amazing background music and slick editing , the fight literally had me at the edge of my seat(Yes , I'm a die-hard rocky fan ) . The outcome ? Completely in line with the movie . I just cannot see it end in any other way . Just like the first movie , this one ends with "Yo Adrian !"
Rocky has always been more than just about boxing , it's about the triumph of the human spirit and as was famously put in the first movie "Going the distance ". And Stallone brings back that simple charm and naivety that makes Rocky such a lovable character ( After being told that Stephen's father is Jamaican , he thinks that Jamaica is in Europe mistakenly identifies a white male as Marie's son ) . The Rockyisms are all there ( "Nothing hits as hard as life itself ....") as well as some touching moments that show how underrated Sly has been as an actor/director ('she didn't leave me Paulie she died' ) It's nice to see some of the characters form the first movie being give more expanded roles including Marie and Spider Rico ( Rocky's Opponent in the opening scene of the first movie ) . Oh Cuff and Link also get a mention .
The general feel of this movie is dramatically different form it's other sequels .It feels much closer to the original Rocky movie than the others( Which is a good thing ). Right from the opening sequence to the final "Yo Adrian !" everything remains true to the original.
The only problem I have with this movie is it that it gets a bit weepy and you just can't help cringing at some of the cliches. It almost borders on self-parody at some points. But these are just minor drawbacks .
In short , this a satisfying and fitting finale to the Rocky saga , that more than makes up for the damage done to the series by some of the sequels ( especially the terrible Rocky IV) . From a movie standpoint, it brought everything full circle. An elegant and powerful ending if ever there was one.
"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 going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you 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! I'm always gonna love you, no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son, you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, you ain't gonna have a life."