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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Gwailo Corner: ROCKY BALBOA (2006)

Rocky Balboa

Year: 2006

Director & Writer: Sylvester Stallone


Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Milo Ventimiglia, Geraldine Hughes, Tony Burton, Mike Tyson (cameo)

The Plot:

Thirty years after the first Rocky film comes the triumphant final entry in this long-running movie saga. The story picks up a few years after Adrian’s death, as we find Rocky running a successful restaurant back in the old neighborhood. Unfortunately, he’s still reeling from the loss, and his relationship with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) is slowly deteriorating, causing Rocky to take refuge in the cherished memories of his well-storied past. Meanwhile, ESPN creates a CGI-assisted virtual boxing match between Rocky and current heavyweight champion of the world, Mason “The Line” Dixon (real-life boxer Antonio Tarver). Rocky wins the VR bout, and Dixon’s management convinces the champ to agree to a ten-round exhibition bout with Rocky in Las Vegas. Will Rocky be up to the challenge? Well, with the help of Duke (Tony Burton), Paulie (Burt Young), and Robert/Rocky, Jr., the Itallian Stallion is ready to put it all on the line one last time.

Paulie’s A-Hole Factor:

Initially, Paulie is pretty bitter and caustic, but eventually, he lightens up.

Training Montage:

Visually stylized, if somewhat brief, this montage-to-end-all-Rocky-montages hits all the right notes (literally!), retaining Bill Conti’s famous score.

Best Lines:

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 gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can 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! — Rocky

The Big Fight:

I’ve read some complaints that it’s “weird” due to the fact that it’s shot on HD like a real HBO boxing match, integrates flashbacks, contains a few hallucinatory moments, and has an occasionally Sin City-like approach to black and white footage that highlights a single primary color in the frame (red for blood, for example), but frankly I loved it. It was suitably “montage-y” in all the right ways. Overall, Dixon vs. Balboa felt like a real boxing match before and after the aforementioned “montage of rounds” commences, and I think that’s exactly what the series needed, considering the exaggerated theatrics of prior Rocky films. They threw real punches, and every punch that was landed got a realistic glove sound effect. Those that missed the mark were not enhanced. Heck, even the injury makeup was more realistic.

The Final Decision:

Who knew Rocky Balboa would be second only to the original? Stallone, I suppose, and I’m glad he kept pursuing this project, even though he was basically ridiculed by studio heads and even casual viewers who would scoff at the mere mention of “Rocky 6.” I like that Mason Dixon even has a story arc; he’s not a simplistic baddie, but more of a consummate professional who has never been challenged, who has never had to prove his heart in the ring. Words fail me in describing Rocky Balboa. It’s a surprisingly moving film, and, holy crap, does it deliver. Ultimately, Rocky Balboa turned out to be a wonderful way to close the series. And trutfully, it’s nice to see the consummate underdog go out on top.


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