Rocky V

Rocky V

***

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Okay, so everyone hates Rocky V, but it's a welcome change of pace from the overly-campy third and the plotless, montage-based fourth. Deciding to get director John G Avildsen back in the chair for the first time since the original - and still best - instalment while opting for a story with more human drama, there was at least a sense that Sly wisely wanted to give us more than our hero going up against another invincible opponent...

Returning home after his punishing match with Ivan Drago, Rocky Balboa (Stallone) is diagnosed with a form of brain damage, told he can't box anymore and left bankrupt by a corrupt accountant. While forced to move his family back into the old neighbourhood, things start to look up when Rocky trains young fighter Tommy "The Machine" Gunn (Tommy Morrison) into a contender. Meanwhile though, Rocky Jr (Sage Stallone) is feeling left out and ruthless promoter Duke (Richard Gant) has a plan to turn Tommy against his mentor.

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Sadly, this never lives up to its potential. Things start off promisingly enough; the beautifully-constructed credits re-visit the bruising Drago match before we cut to the jarringly-dark aftermath where Rocky sits alone in the dressing room aware something is wrong with him and unable to stop shaking. The problem is that from here on out there's an unsatisfying feeling that refuses to subside.

Sure, the decision to return our big-hearted pugilist to square one is a good one (he never suited rich anyway), but it comes via a number of noticeably-contrived plot-devices. We get a necklace of supposed emotional significance that's never been mentioned before. We get Rocky Jr (played reasonably well by Sly's real son Sage), who's noticeably older than when his Dad left for Russia. We also get Mickey (returning via flashbacks) re-written as decidedly more sentimental than the crabbit trainer we knew, who occasionally let a compliment slip.

Still, if these niggles don't bother you - or if you can at least ignore them sufficiently - it's good to see nods to the Oscar-worthy first. Rock putting his old clothes back on, Adrian (Talia Shire) getting her old job back, the image of Tommy's initial fight which mirrors the opening shot of Rocky... like the now-familiar singers harmonise, we're taking it back. Despite overdoing the mumbling a bit Stallone wins us over again with some nice dialogue (“I got a problem, I gotta fight”) and allowed to do more than just pitch up at the last minute to kick Rocky's training into gear, Shire gives her best yet. As for real-life boxer Morrison, he's suitably hateable as the protégé-come-nemesis even with a mullet that warrants its own mention in the credits.

While killing him would have been disaster (this was intended for most of filming) Rocky V still doesn't give us a satisfying farewell. However, it betters the last few by learning a key lesson that Adrian argues at one point - the strength of Rocky was always his heart, not his muscles.

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2009
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Rocky V packshot
Forced to retire, Rocky takes on a protege.
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