DVD Review: Rocky Balboa
By Patrick Luce Mar 20, 2007, 14:42 GMT
Rocky Balboa (Stallone) has now been retired for some time, but hard-up for money, he decides to step back into the ring against a few small-time boxers. Everything changes, though, when Rocky is offered the opportunity to step in with the reigning Heavyweight Champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon. Does Rocky still have what it takes to make another Championship comeback? ...more
Sylvester Stallone steps back into the ring with Rocky Balboa – a film that captures all the elements that made the first movie in the franchise great. The movie is simply a treat for fans of the Rocky films and a fitting conclusion to Stallone’s classic story of the underdog with the never give up attitude.
The sixth film in the Rocky series sees Stallone returning as the Italian Stallion - who is now the owner of a small Italian restaurant and retired from boxing. His wife Adrian has died of “woman cancer” and Rocky pretty much spends his time by telling stories of his old glory days in the ring, visiting his old spots (such as Mickey’s gym), and wandering around the city. In many ways, the world has forgotten him. His son Robert Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia) is a young businessman who is uncomfortable in his famous father’s shadow, and Rocky’s only real friend is his “loser” brother-in-law Paulie (once again played by Burt Young).
When a computer program predicts that Rocky would defeat reigning heavyweight titleholder Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), Rocky’s routine world starts to get turned upside down and he starts to question if there is some more “stuff in the basement.” He also reconnects with a chance for love again when he meets Marie (who was little Marie in the first Rocky), but Stallone wisely never lets a true romance develop between the two characters. Fans might be willing to accept the death of Adrian (which truly adds some emotional weight to the film), but that doesn’t mean we want to see Rocky shouting “Yo Marie, I did it!”
After an appeal process, Rocky gets his boxing license again – which sets up an exhibition match between an old Rocky and the current champ Mason Dixon. Once again, Rocky is the underdog and no one thinks he has a chance to win. This is not the Rocky from the earlier movies. He isn’t going to be chasing a chicken or hitting a rubber ball to get speed. His knees are shot, and he has calcium build up in his hands. To win the fight, he is going to need to inflict “blunt force trauma.”
Rocky is an old man, and the filming during the boxing match reflects it. Stallone doesn’t fly around the ring, but lumbers about like Frankenstein’s monster. He swings wild punches rather than surgical jabs. He is slow, hurting, and overmatched by Dixon. However, Rocky has the heart, the will, and the never quit attitude that has helped him overcome the odds in all the Rocky films.
When I first heard that Stallone was making another Rocky film, I laughed. I had zero desire to see it, and couldn’t imagine the movie being any good at all. I am happy to admit I was WRONG. Rocky Balboa is a film that is filled with heart, and all the things that made the first film so great. Within the opening minutes of the movie, I was hooked. The opening scenes (where Rocky and Paulie are touring the spots where Rocky took Adrian on their first date) are filled with emotion, and set the mood for the entire film.
Stallone makes sure that this is not the same character that he has presented to the audience in the past five films. This Rocky has been knocked down, and at first he is not sure if he can get up again. Stallone presents the character as tired, depressed, and lost. As the film progresses, Rocky slowly finds the strength inside himself to start living again, and the courage to face a world that has changed.
The only real problem with the movie is its formulaic feel. This is a Rocky movie. The story (while on par with the first film) follows the same blueprint as all the Rocky movies. He is the people’s champ; no one thinks he can do it; he trains hard; and punches the slab of beef. Still, who cares? Those are the very aspects that have made the Rocky movies great (well, maybe not Rocky V).
The DVD comes with some decent special features that take you inside the making of the movie, and give a look at how the project was a labor of love for Stallone. The commentary with Stallone reflects how the Rocky story was a personal journey for him. The commentary discusses Rocky Balboa, but also features Stallone’s thoughts on the entire Rocky franchise. There are also a couple of hints that another version of the DVD could see the light of day at some point – which isn’t really a shock in today’s DVD market.
There is also the basic behind the scenes featurettes - "Skill vs. Will: The Making of Rocky Balboa" which runs about 18 minutes; "Reality in the Ring: Filming Rocky's Final Fight" which is about 15 minutes; and "Virtual Champion: Creating the Computer Fight" which runs about five minutes.
The DVD also features eight deleted scenes which add up to about 23 minutes. There is also an alternate ending – which Stallone was wise not to use. There is nothing wrong with the ending, but the theatrical one is better. The special features also include a short Boxing Bloopers.
Rocky Balboa is a fitting conclusion to the Rocky saga, and is well worth taking the time to watch. The film has the same look and feel as the first Rocky. Stallone makes sure there is something in it for diehard fans of the series and for new viewers not familiar with the story.