'Rocky V' Review: Right Back Where We Started
Monday, January 21, 2008
Rocky IV was one of the most successful films in the franchise, but its tremendously cheesy excess had taken the character too far away from his humble beginnings. A man who started out as a relatable underdog had become a world-renowned celebrity who was capable of defeating a super-powered Russian. The character who once slummed it on the streets of Philadelphia now had a mansion and a talking robot butler. Needless to say, Rocky had to get back to his roots.
For Rocky V, Sylvester Stallone reteamed with the director of the original film, John G. Avildsen, in an attempt to bring back Rocky's humanity. Did they succeed?
Rocky V attempts to atone for the sins of the fourth installment by stripping the character of everything he once had. After a shady accountant robs him of his fortune, Rocky discovers that he can no longer box professionally due to brain damage. These setbacks force him to move to his old Philadelphia neighborhood with Adrian and his teenage son (played by Stallone's real life son, Sage), where he starts training a young fighter with the awesome name of Tommy Gunn.
Many fans loathe Rocky V and like to pretend it doesn't exist, and it's easy to see why. It's tough watching a character you've grown to love have everything stripped away from him. Though bringing Rocky back to his roots was a fantastic idea, it's possible that Stallone, who once again wrote the screenplay, regressed the character more than necessary. In fact, the brain damage that plays so prominently in the plot of this film isn't even mentioned in its follow-up, Rocky Balboa. Stallone wrote the character into a corner with that particular development, and audiences were less than pleased.
The film may be hated by the fans and dismissed by many critics, but it earns major points with me for having its heart in the right place. Stallone and Avildsen wanted to tell a touching, character based story that also commented on the evils of the boxing industry. They succeed for the most part, but the film is weakened by its slightly messy screenplay and poor supporting performances. I don't think real life fighter Tommy Morrison, who plays cocky upstart Tommy Gunn, will be winning Oscars anytime soon.
Rocky V may have a terrible reputation, but it shouldn't be cast out of the ring so easily. The film may not deliver the bombastic entertainment of the fourth installment, but it wisely focuses on character instead of slick montages and overblown action. The movie recaptures the tone of the first two films, and that makes it a welcome change of pace after robot butlers and super-powered Russians. It doesn't win every round, but this Rocky still lands some impressive punches.
- Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of MGM/UA)