ROCKY BALBOA puts up his dukes for the sixth time in 2006, 30 bout-bruising years after the original Rocky. Concluding the saga of ‘The Italian Stallion’, hearty 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone wrote & directed his iconic creation in order to put a more satisfactory conclusion to the Balboa story than Rocky V, which didn’t perform as expected with the public, was dissed by critics and left Sly unsatisfied with his efforts as well.
“So, what we’ll be calling on is good ol’ fashion blunt force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast-iron, piledriving punches that will have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot, it’s gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train.”
‘Adrian’ has passed away, leaving Rocky dealing with his grief, trying to mend a relationship with his son (Milo Ventigmilia), helping out a neighborhood gal (Geraldine Hughes, nicely played) and managing his restaurant. ‘Paulie’ (Burt Young) is still a handful. The array of situations leads to critical mass when Rocky takes on a challenge to come out of retirement for a charity match with unpopular (and much younger) heavyweight champ ‘Mason “The Line” Dixon’ (Antonio Tarver, 37 and an actual light heavyweight champ). Will Rocky make it through the fight? Will there be an uplifting training session with Bill Conti’s familiar music? Will this be a decent entry in the series and a fair enough finale (of sorts)?
Yes to all three. Not in the same weight class as the first or third (Rocky III pities all fools) but much better than II, IV and V. Brought in for a lean $24,000,000, it earned generally positive reviews and a “Yo, Adrian!” $155,721,000 from loyal fans. The acting’s solid, it’s quite well photographed (J. Clark Mathis); the story is implausible and sentimental but entertaining and the climactic bout is a audience-pleasing pounder. Stallone’s direction, the first time helming in 21 years, is assured and fluid.
“You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
On deck for the 100 minutes is series regular Tony Burton, as ‘Duke Evers’, sixth time round. Along with the box office take, another $34,000,000 rolled in from DVD sales. Nine years later, Stallone co-starred in the spinoff Creed, which not only was a big hit, but it brought the never-say-quit star a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination to go with the Best Actor nom he’d drawn way back in ’76 with the opening shot. As expected, Creed II is in the pipeline.
“The last thing to age on somebody is their heart.”