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Monday, 11 December 2017

Retro Review: Rocky V (1990)

Rocky V
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Burgess Meredith
Genre: Sports Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $119 million 

Plot: Reluctantly retired from boxing & back from riches to rags, Rocky takes on a new protege - who betrays him, as the champ's son must adjust to his family's new life from bankruptcy 

'The Rocky & Bullwinkle Son & Apprentice Show'

Labelled the black sheep of the Rocky movie franchise, the fifth instalment in the Rocky franchise sees Rocky Balboa take a bit of a back seat and step away from the ring, whilst he turns his attention to other things: most notably being a father figure for his son and a mentor for rookie Tommy Gunn. Though it has taken a lot of flak and criticism for dumbing down the series and going down the emotional route, Rocky V was still fully entertaining and a film that didn't have one dull moment throughout. I mean, it's not the best in the series and there are lots of far better movies than Rocky V, and still, I found this one to be good; not very good or terrific, but overly decent with a compelling story that is less formulaic and thoroughly enjoyable. Especially the performances. 

Rocky V tries to do things slightly differently and credit to the writers and producers for taking a risk, even if it isn't something that adorned fans of the previous movies. 

After defeating Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren, who coincidentally enough reunited with Stallone for The Expendables movies), Rocky ends up brain damaged and quits the ring for good. He and Adrian return home - only to find their assets have been signed over to a financial advisor. They then move back to their old neighbourhood find themselves confronted & goaded by promoter Duke, who is somewhat based on the real promoter Don King, who demands Rocky back in the ring and meeting a young boxer in Tommy Gunn, who sees Rocky as the person to groom & mould him into the ultimate fighting machine that he is. But alas, there is a sting in the tail and when Rocky discovers that Tommy has been lured by King and has gone down the darker path, much to his dismay, they settle their differences one way: a street fight brawl. With Tommy looking to emerge from Rocky's shadow and wanting nothing to do with him and Robert, Rocky's son, who looks up to his father, - and wants to have a good father/son relationship. Yet after being beaten up by bullies in school, he feels neglected by his father, of whom chooses to spend time with Tommy in the ring. Rocky V is divided into one main plot and one subplot: the main plot being Rocky honing his new protege, Tommy and the subplot involving Robert, Rocky's young son.

Being the least liked film of the Rocky series, Sylvester Stallone even said he detests this movie & that he only did it for the money. Though as mentioned, I found it enjoyable there are a few issues with Rocky V: the first is Stallone's performance feels off and his mannerisms and the way he says his lines are off, at times. Tommy Gunn, meanwhile, is a necessary secondary character and nemesis for Balboa. Director John G Avildsen who did the first Rocky, as well the Karate Kid trilogy of films returns for this instalment and his efforts are admirable. George Washington's Duke was convincingly slimy and an arrogant money-hungry big mouth. The idea to add more conflict to the story, as opposed to relying on the same formula was good to see. The street fight was an interesting attempt to shake things up, as well as add a new dimension. 

Where Rocky V pales in contrast to Rocky IV is its feel-good spirit, and but for the penultimate showdown, the other fights are not as good. The first two Rocky movies were more melodramatic and with Avildsen, who directed the first Rocky, back in the director's chair, he relies less on the action and more on the drama. Yet because I enjoyed the story and how it developed, I felt the drama was done well. I know some people didn't like when it shifted on Rocky's son and on him and dad, but it wasn't done in a way that was too mawkish. Although some of the scenes where Rocky puts on a goofy voice as he cheers up his son was a bit cringing and embarrassing. It was a good move to see Rocky's struggles outside of the ring for a change and how he deals with each predicament. That, and it's well developed, the motives of the characters and their storylines and how they tie in with Rocky are well balanced and well devised also. 

If you are expecting a typical Rocky movie, then you will feel disappointed in the direction it has headed here. But if you are interested in a Rocky effort that still has its emotional heart in the right places and with that, end with a bang that this one has, and one I thought was really good and extremely satisfying, Rocky V is a film that far from completely terrible as it has been lauded by so many.  

Final Verdict:

Not the most memorable Rocky movie and as a little hokey as it was in places, it was still entertaining and enjoyable stuff, nonetheless. There wasn't a scene I truly hated or disliked actually. Rocky's son was tolerable for me and I felt his frustrations as he tries to get his dad's attention. 

What I enjoyed most was that Rocky V tried to be legitimate in its story and making it engrossing as it was and is. The further it went on and with the plot twists added, made me like it even more. 

Granted, it may have disappointed so many, but for me, Rocky V still packs a mighty punch. 


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