Weekly Feature

2006-12-27 / Entertainment



Let’s face it, if you’re going to see “Rocky Balboa,” the newest installment in the once thought lifeless boxing franchise, you already know what to expect.

In truth, the movies following “Rocky” in 1976 have never been about quality acting or a well-written script, but instead about the legend of one man and an undying spirt against the most implausible circumstances.

Ever since Sylvester Stallone’s first film about the lovable lug from Philadelphia first came out swinging, the actor and his most famous character have been synonymous with each other.

In the beginning, they were both down and out underdogs pulling themselves up out of the gutter for a chance of a lifetime, one shot to go the distance: Stallone, an actor from New York attempting to break into Hollywood, and Balboa, a petty thug turned boxer with a heart of gold.

And as the legend grew and Rocky’s career as a boxer began to flourish in such classic but at times laughable sequels, so too did Stallone, catapulting him into one of the biggest action stars of the ‘80s.

But as age and success began to take its toll on Stallone, so too did it leave its mark on Balboa, leaving us with the abomination that was Rocky V.

But the reason people didn’t like that film wasn’t because of the bad plot or the poor casting job — it’s because we wanted Philadelphia’s most famous fictional son back in the ring. We didn’t want him down and out, defeated and unable to fight.

People didn’t like the overweight Elvis and they don’t want to see Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform. We want our heroes intact in our memories as the larger-than-life figures they were.

Obviously, this was something that Stallone realized when he set out to resurrect the career of everyone’s favorite southpaw, and as you watch this movie, it’s clear that’s exactly what the Italian Stallion gives us.

It’s Rocky, once again down and out, but this time he’s making a comeback. It’s improbable and doesn’t make any sense, but who cares — it’s Rocky — complete with raw eggs, training montages and meat house throw-downs.

There is a heart to this story, however, and as the movie begins, we see a washed up Balboa puttering through the streets of Philadelphia in a rather depressing fashion.

But if you were a fan of this saga, the nostalgia will almost certainly strike an emotional chord, as it did with me. And as the former champ longs to get back in the ring, you can’t help but root for both Rocky and Stallone.

You can see it in Sly’s weathered face and bruised body — he’s a cagey lion in the winter of his days raging against the dying of the light — age and logic be damned.

And that’s what we want. It’s what I want, and in that way Rocky Balboa delivers. Stallone didn’t make this movie for the critics — he made it for the loyal fans who wasted countless Saturdays watching the Rocky saga on cable television.

It’s one last chance for a down-and-out fighter whose time has passed him by. I highly doubt that anyone who spent the majority of their youth quoting monosyllabic Ivan Drago quotes and shadowboxing to “Eye of the Tiger” is going to complain.

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