January 9, 2017
Review #895: Rocky V.
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian Balboa), Burt Young (Paulie Pennino), Sage Stallone (Robert "Rocky" Balboa, Jr), Richard Gant (George Washington Duke), Tommy Morrison (Tommy "The Machine" Gunn), Burgess Meredith (Mickey Goldmill), Tony Burton (Tony Evers), and Paul J. Micale (Father Carmine) Directed by John G. Avildsen (#003 - Rocky)
Ah yes, this one. It has been a while since I talked about the Rocky franchise (#003, #277 - Rocky II, #340 - Rocky III, #597 - Rocky IV, #760 - Creed), so it only makes sense that I review the one that attempted to return Rocky to his roots...and does so with minimal results. It's not the fact that it inverts the formula as it the fact that it's just not that entertaining. Neither Rocky IV or V are good, for varying reasons, with one being ludicrous and the other feeling hollow. The way that the film resets Rocky's status seems cheap, with the brain damage part somehow not clicking, in part because Rocky seems the same anyway, and the climax is a fight in the streets (which goes down the way you expect, sans any idea of Rocky getting more damage). Probably the easiest problem with the movie is the fact that it tries too hard to return to the grit of the first film (while doing an inverse of the rags-to-riches story), without much of the heart of what made that movie entertaining. Obviously this is a movie that tries to end the series with some sort of dignity that the fourth film didn't have, but it all comes off as a throwback with some mold on it. The two stories (Rocky training Tommy and his family drama) don't mesh well, in part because they just feel unfocused.
It only makes sense that Stallone cast his son to play (are you ready for this): his son, ignoring the age difference from previous films. Obviously the two have father-son chemistry, but I didn't really find the son's narrative to be particularly interesting enough to care about. Of course the solution to his problems is fighting (literally every problem in these movies can be solved by fighting), but it just feels superficial. Heck, he even befriends the dude he beats up, because I guess that's how things work in Philadelphia in the 90's. As for the main Stallone, he does a fine job as always, continuing to make Rocky a likable character, though he does have some moments where he experiences some sort of depth, like when he is talking to Adrian about having meaning in his life again by training Tommy. Relating to that, Morrison (an actual boxer) doesn't have much screen presence, never really seeming like someone to care about, with Gant taking most of the villainous role...while playing it as over-the-top as one could do it. I didn't find him to be that great a villain (in part because half the time his pleas for Rocky to fight are rejected by Adrian), and his scenes with Morrison aren't anything special. He definitely doesn't help when the movie is trying to return to its roots. Young is fine as usual, with a bit more importance this time around (for better or worse). It is somewhat nice to see Meredith (playing Mickey again in a flashback) again, even if his scene is there mainly to speed the plot up.
There is a climax, culminating in a street fight...and some messy editing, where it flashes back at times to Rocky's other fights (which occurred numerous times already), which just makes me want to watch any of the other films instead. There really isn't a way to end the movie without the status quo (Rocky still being broke) still being the same unless you kill off Rocky, which apparently was the original plan, before it was changed...and it's easy to see why. Seeing Rocky die would be the ultimate downer in a series all about perseverance and heart. Sure, he wins the fight. So what? The movie's ending can be questioned with that phrase, and there really is no answer. The previous films had some sort of meaning with the way the fights go (even the fourth one, with Rocky's speech at the end), but this one just doesn't feel right. The last scene with the two Stallones (and a credit sequence that takes images from the previous films) is somewhat good, but by then it's too late to make any real kind of impact. At the end of the day, Rocky V just doesn't click right. There's no real punch to it, and it certainly doesn't feel like a proper finale to the series.
Countdown to #900: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5...
Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.