Rocky Balboa cries, then hits


When I first got whiff of Rocky Balboa I saw all the signs of Sylvester Stallone dealing with a massive image issue, feelings of inadueaquucaay, fear of failure, that he has something to prove to the world, that he can write, act AND direct himself just as well as he did in, well, the first Rocky. And that was 30 years ago.

What the hell? Was he joking? Was he going through Gloria Swanson-esque delusions of a comeback, grasping for the chance to relive some far-gone glory? Does he have a German director man-servant? Is he riding on the trend of franchise returns and restarts like Batman and James Bond? Or is there actually something to this, a second chance of sorts? I haven’t seen the other Rocky movies but I hear they’re pretty silly. Didn’t Rocky fight a robot once? Will there be robot fights in this one?

Yo how about a slug

When I went to see Casino Royale in theaters last November three peculiar things happened. One, I saw an awesome James Bond movie. Two, the audience cheered their heads off for the stupid cocktease of a teaser the Transformers movie had. The one with the Mars rover. Looking back now I suppose it got the job done. It was a fucking tease all right.

THREE – and this is the one that has to do with Rocky Balboa – the audience went fucking out-of-their-minds crazy for the Rocky Balboa trailer. The air was ELECTRIC and everyone was fucking pumped. It was like a hero came home. I even got excited! The movie looked good, and Sly was even sly with that “Actually, it’s more the 70s” line, a wink to everyone with concerns of another cheesy robot-fighting sequel.

After Casino Royale ended, and I was high on Awesome Movie fumes I got a good look at my audience as they shuffled for the door (though most stayed behind gushing and listening to Monty Norman’s immortal guitar theme). Everyone in the theater was a man. Burly, meat-chewing lumberbacks. James Bond fans. Rocky fans. Transformers fans. Movie fans. Big lumbering man-children. I felt like I was… home. I would learn later from a friend of the female-type variety there were, maybe, three girls in the whole theater based on how empty the girl’s bathroom was. And that’s just unheard of.

But it wasn’t until a night or so ago I finally saw Rocky VI – er, Rocky BALBOA. I didn’t watch it as I grilled a steak or fixed a lawnmower, though that might have put more hair on my chest (not that it needs more), but I did watch it with my father, and that’s possibly just as manly. Not going out in the woods to hunt deer afterwards may have spoiled it a little, but I was surprised that I ended up enjoying the movie. Weird, because Rocky Balboa (I hate typing that goofy last name) is the feel-good, cheap drama type of movie I should hate, and deep down I do, because I know people don’t talk to each other in sprawling loud-mouthed monologues like Rocky does to everyone in this movie. Everyone! Literally, EVERYOOONEE!!!!! If someone’s down and out on their luck Rocky will come over, talk a lot in that weird mush-mouthed Sly delivery that’s so fun to emulate, and give the person a job at his restaurant, named after his deceased wife Adrian.

That’s what Rocky does for at least the first hour of the movie. And it’s not a long movie, it’s barely over 90 minutes. He meets and gives jobs to everyone, including the little girl Rocky gives a stern talkin’ to in the first movie – now grown up – his son, and Adrian’s sister Paulie, who is finally fired from the meat packin’ place. Rocky is the nicest, most benevolent, cheerful guy there is and he does all this while still massively grieving over Adrian’s death, visiting her grave with flowers, even a chair to sit down and just stare at the headstone. I guess it does justice to the memory of the character but it’s a little much.

Life is sad ;__;

All of it’s a little much, which Paulie thankfully points out: “This is depressing as HELL! FUCK.” Sly knew people would call foul so every little concern or anxiety you’ve got about 60-year-old Sly revisiting Rocky, the movie points it out and addresses it. Foremost on my mind was whether Rocky and the girl-from-Rocky-now-grown-up would enter into a sicko, disturbing romance. Don’t worry, they say something about it and the anxiety is defused. They even poke fun at the CGI “simulation” fight that catalyzes Rocky’s return to the ring. Paulie calls it a “Looney Tune cartoon fight.” Armed with a sense of self-awareness I never thought Sly was capable of, the script, stranegly, is nearly bulletproof.

It’s fitting I saw the movie with my father because it’s all about patriarchy and dealing with today’s youth. I could easily see my dad identifying with Rocky, scared of losing touch with the times, trying to make the best of everything. But everyone loves Rocky, he’s practically (he is) a Philly tourist attraction and he gives everyone a second, third, fourth chance. He’s a benevolent patriarch, a good king to all his people. To Rocky, the steroid bucket is always half full. But something’s rotten in the state of Pennsylvania besides crippling nostalgia, and its the ever-widening generation gap.

Relating to the youth is hard, especially with all that rap music and strange way of talking. Rocky goes to a bar and this bitch in dire need of a slap comes up asking in a trashy ghetto, uh, dialect, if Rocky will buy her a drink. She totally rails on him when he doesn’t oblige, spouting high school shit like “JOO DON NO ME” and Rocky marvels at how things just ain’t what they used to be. Rocky is also surprised to learn Grown-Up Girl, being all grown up, now has a son. Rocky asks who he is, so she points over to him and it’s one of two kids down the block, a messy-haired white kid and a tall black kid. Guess which one it is! And of course, the father skipped out a long time ago.

Being the Arthurian father figure he is, and because his own son’s kind of distanced away from him in some yuppie business firm, Rocky takes young Steps – short for Stephen (Rocky quips “Makes sense.”) – under his wing and, uh-huh, gives him a job at Adrian’s. When Steps walks in, Paulie, surly and disgruntled as usual, asks Rocky “Who’s the criminal?!” Jeez, Paulie.

Sure, Philly’s not known for its brotherly love anymore but man. This is a PG-rated family film! Yet there’s a definite air of distrust towards this… urbanization of youth culture. This is reconciled by the end of course and Steps turns out to be an all right kid. Rocky’s new opponent, Mason “The Line” Dixon (yikes), also proves to be benign in the end. White opportunist business suit types are definitely sharks though, depicted as obnoxious dickheads who’d slit their momma’s throat for a nickel. Sounds fair.

So, wow, all this talk of Rocky and I said NOTHING about what everyone knows Rocky for: training montages! Sure enough, you get one, but ONLY one and it’s really rather short! I was kind of disappointed by this aspect considering all the crazy nature nonsense I hear Rocky IV has. Rocky and his whole team of feel-good supports – including his son, Paulie, Apollo’s old trainer, and this old ugly dog no one except Rocky would adopt (Thinly Veiled Metaphor Alert! WOOP WOOP) – help him punch meat and run up those famous stairs, and well, that’s about it. Cue the classic Rocky Theme Music and you got your montage. Of course, by this time, I’ve been waiting for the montage and that music for ages so I guess I was satisfied. By that time, I was pumped for the fight.


Which, I gotta admit, I got into. I got lost in it. Sly made it look very authentic with real world announcers, referrees (is that what you call ’em?) and the boxing cinematography was well done, with the camera pulled back so you could actually see the punches thrown. All very professional and realistic-looking. The whole film looks pretty good. It’s cliche to say, I guess it’s the noir fan of me, but the city really pops out of the screen. Backgrounds are rarely out of focus so you can really see into the alleys and underpasses of Philadelphia. Everything is crisp and detailed.

The soundtrack helps guide things along, even if it’s usually the Rocky theme in various orchestrated and piano reprises, but it’s a good, pleasant piece of music and really adds to the romance angle reminiscent of the first Rocky. Sinatra also shows up at a key moment and there’s some rap too whenever those youth folk show up. Gulldern ’em.

So there’s Rocky Balboa. Given the snobbish mentality of our site this positive review of a Sylvester friggin’ Stallone flick may cause some confusion, and I probably won’t make any friends with this review, but fuck it, I enjoyed a decent movie with my dad about dads and sons – hell (DAMN), about men. Men who roll with the punches, weep over past romances then feel better about it after punching another man.

Now I gotta go help some friends move a couch. After I finish that toolshed I’ve been working on.

Yo I'm Rocky and I'm a Mii whucha gunna do about it



20 Responses to “Rocky Balboa cries, then hits”

  1. Brian B Says:

    I thought this was a fantastic movie.

  2. homelessparade Says:

    i really liked rocky balboa too.

    but for goddsakes, magus!

    see the other fucking Rocky movies.


  3. johnmora Says:

    Let it be known that this is Magus’ opinion, not my own. May Film Walrus have mercy on your soul.

  4. Brian B Says:

    Oh no.

  5. Chad Says:

    I agree, see them all. Please? For the children?

    I mean, you are a MAN right? You sure talk the talk.

  6. sirtmagus Says:

    Gosh, I didn’t expect such support. n__n

    To clear things up, I did see the first Rocky. It was good and nice though my god you gotta get used to Sylvester Stallone talking forever. I’ve only seen clips of the Rocky sequels and I know basic knowledge about each one, like Mr. T is in the third one and Dolph Lundgren’s in Rocky IV.

    I saw the Rocky IV training montage in a class on 80s movies. It was exhilirating. I will see the rest of the flick eventually. \:3

  7. FilmWalrus Says:

    You only got away with this for so long because I’ve been busy pampering my little baby kitty for the last few days, fittingly one of the top 10 least manly things to do. John, you made the right decision to decision to dodge my wrath on this one.

    I HATED this film. It was probably the worst film I saw from 2006 and I would normally have known enough to avoid it except that it was my only option as an international inflight movie. An interesting fact: Sylvester Stallone would long ago have faded into obscurity were it not for his enormous following in Asia that ensures millions of dollars in foreign sales.

    How a positive review of this film exists, and from someone I like and respect, totally baffles me. It wasn’t just that the film was bad (I love bad movies) it sickened my stomach, sapped the marrow from my bones, boiled my blood and deadened my mind. I mean that nearly as literally as I do metaphorically. More entertainment was to be found in the soggy mushrooms of my inflight meal and the droning cries of a baby made sick by the plane’s turbulence than in the film I sat through.

    My full review/diatribe is here:

    I’ll not repeat the bulk of my complaints in these comments but I will say that I feel mentioning the problems of a film from within the film is not the same as addressing them. Problems that are addressed properly are fixed. The only way to fix this film would be to melt the celluloid and pour it down Stallone’s throat.

    Incidently I also saw this movie with my dad and he laughed almost as much as I did. Afterwards we bonded about how much we hated bad movies and the woeful state of the American blockbuster. When we share a mutually enjoyable film we usually lean towards geeky sci-fi.

    As for seeing the other Rocky sequels, they have a certain flimsy charm and humorous testosterone display, but you’ll have a much more rewarding experience spending your time on movies picked at random from a 3 for $5.99 display (unless those are also Rocky sequels).

  8. sirtmagus Says:

    Sounds like someone missed X3.

    And I agree with what you say in your short review, and I said I shouldn’t have liked this movie, but I did.

    *Twilight Zone music*

  9. Brian B Says:

    Tough break, Magus.

  10. Becky Says:

    For all of you hating on Stallone, SUCK IT! He is one of the (if not THE) best directors and screen play writers of the 20th and 21st century. I honestly dont know were people, who seemingly have no whatsoever background in movie credentials, get off saying that Stallone’s “Rocky” series was a bust, in my opinion they are the greatest movies of all time! There was meant to be a Rocky 6…the 5th one just didnt end on a right note, and Stallone knew that, thats what he was trying to reslove…the unfinished saga. And one more thing…if you are judging the 2006 Rocky before watching all of the other oones, you are a damn fool. Watch the other 5 before judging the 6th…he did EXCELLENT justice in ending HIS OWN story–he has a right to–and he did it, beautifully. Thank you Sylvester Stallone–from the people whos lives you have changed.

    ” I appreciate that, but maybe you’re looking out for your interests just a little bit more. I mean you shouldn’t be asking people to come down here and pay the freight on something they paid, it still ain’t good enough, I mean you think that’s right? I mean maybe you’re doing your job but why you gotta stop me from doing mine? Cause if you’re willing to go through all the battling you got to go through to get where you want to get, who’s got the right to stop you? I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to someone, something… and you’re told no, even after you paid your dues? Who’s got the right to tell you that, who? Nobody! It’s your right to listen to your gut, it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be where you want to be and do what you want to do!… You know, the older I get the more things I gotta leave behind, that’s life. The only thing I’m asking you guys to leave on the table… is what’s right.” -Rocky (Rocky Balboa, 2006)

  11. John Mora Says:

    Well I guess if you think they’re the greatest movies of all time, you’re gonna think Sylvester Stallone is one of the greatest talents of all time!

  12. Becky Says:

    Well, he is kinda of a legend…dont ya think? Someone with the audacity to do something that they find right and not caring what other people think, takes some kind of heart…which–in todays society is kinda hard to come by now that eveyone is worried about that stain on their American Eagle shirt–we dont need anymore fakes. Thank God for Stallone, he is original.

  13. John Mora Says:

    Well, some people would call that stubbornness.

  14. Becky Says:

    …OR originality; like I stated before…thanks for paying attention.

  15. Rick Says:

    I would call it a bunch of malarkey.

  16. Becky Says:

    Well, to each his own…somebody has to be wrong…

  17. sirtmagus Says:

    >>Well, to each his own
    >>somebody has to be wrong

    does not compute

  18. Becky Says:

    For the people who cant comprehend what I had typed earlier, we have our own opinions but in the long run one of us is wrong. Ok….is anyone out there who agrees with me on the whole Stallone thing…I am kinda getting tireed of all of the negative connotations, thanks.

  19. John Mora Says:

    Because if anything is absolute, it’s taste in movies.

  20. sirtmagus Says:

    I think Stallone is incredibly talented at entertaining people. He knows how to craft a script, how to shoot, how to cast, all with a narrow budget – just look at the latest Rambo. Not exactly a study in subtlety, nor is there anyone impressive in it aside from Stallone himself (and the outrageous gore), but he knows what audiences want. They demanded a better send-off for Rocky, so he gave them one. They demanded an ultraviolent Rambo (and another send-off for another character), so he gave them one.

    The man’s no idiot, clearly, but it’s not like he’s immune to criticism. The new Rambo was slaughtered by everyone with access to a keyboard, even this site, yet to some extent… I was still entertained. My favorite of his (besides First Blood Part II) is Demolition Man. It’s no paragon of cinema but goddamn is it entertaining, and it was on the mark with several of its predictions (Taco Bell won the Fast Food Wars, Scharzennegger in politics). That’s always a fun one to return to. Even Judge Dredd, dredd-ful as it is, has some things worth looking at if just for campy laughs. And I absolutely look forward to whatever he does next, especially that rumored Death Wish remake.

    He’s an important entertainer for sure, but is he one of the most brilliant artists of our time? Considering his varied and numerous competition I think the jury’s still out on that one.

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