Rocky IV

Rocky IV

**

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

In Rocky III, our favourite underdog learned a valuable lesson - to get back to former glory, it's necessary to return to your beginnings. Sadly, Sly Stallone (starring, writing and directing) didn't learn the same lesson as his shallow fourth instalment doesn't just move away from the Oscar-winning original's raw credibility, it uppercuts it straight out the ring. While the second instalment largely retained the first's set-in-the-real-world grit and the third was only half-campy nonsense, Rocky IV is easily the franchise's worst.

Feeling dissatisfied with life after boxing, former World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) decides to challenge the formidable Russian newcomer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). However, when Creed dies in the ring, Rocky (Stallone) blames himself for not stopping the fight and challenges Drago to a rematch in Russia.

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With pressure on Sly to quickly deliver another Rocky film before he became too old to play the part (how ironic, looking back) the fourth instalment has all the hallmarks of a rush-job. Dialogue almost seems to be made up on the spot, the acting is occasionally as mechanical as Paulie's robot and the storyline is so by-the-numbers that the only viewers unsure of the outcome will be those who haven't seen a Rocky flick.

And then there's the blatantly in-your-face jingoism - as subtle as one of Drago's overhand rights. Tunes like Living In America and War pepper the soundtrack, the stereotyping is relentlessly simplistic (USA = Good, Russia = Evil) and the pro-Americana propaganda is such that that tile could have been Rocky IV: The Stallion vs. The Cold War. Sure, it was relevant at the time and makes a bit of sense plot-wise (Creed has always been very patriotic), but when there's more flag-waving than human drama, something has obviously gone wrong somewhere.

Still, despite the fact there is not enough plot to fill the meagre 91-minute running-time, the three montage sequences somehow bring it into cult-favourite territory. Though the first gives us a host of series flashbacks accompanied by Robert Tepper's No Easy Way Out ("...there's no shortcut home!" Brilliant), it's the other two that bring the money shots. Our newly-bearded perennial underdog lifting rocks, skipping furiously and crumpling small photographs while Duke (most inspirational movie trainer ever™) barks: "No Pain. No Pain!" … it’s viscerally-stirring stuff. As for our hero literally conquering a mountain to yell "DRAGOOOO!", it ranks amongst the franchise's most defining moments.

Of course, the final fight is ludicrous at times, but there's enough spine-tingling moments ("the Russian is cut, and it's a bad cut!") to keep the faithful happy. Lundgren and Bridgette Nielsen are impressive despite getting little to no character development, plus the knowledge that the former put Sly in intensive care for eight days and knocked Weathers unconscious (causing him to briefly quit) makes him all the scarier.

A homoerotic training-junkie's wet dream perhaps, but Rocky IV is a poor movie. One for the eyes and ears instead of the heart and head, montages aside this is the series' lowest point.

Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2009
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When Apollo Creed is killed in a boxing bout, Rocky decides to take on the challenger himself.
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Director: Sylvester Stallone

Writer: Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Michael Pataki

Year: 1985

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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