Monday, November 10, 2008

Rocky Balboa

After I was so taken with Sylvester Stallone's 2008 return to Rambo, I'd been meaning to watch his most recent take (2006) on his signature character, Rocky Balboa. I picked up a copy a few weeks back for five bucks at Movie Stop and finally sat down to watch it yesterday.
Loved it. Absolutely loved it. I'd seen all the Rocky films in the theater back in the day, and always enjoyed them. During my years of teaching and studying karate, whenever I'd have a lull in my training or not be feeling up to speed I'd pop a Rocky movie into the VCR and watch him training and I'd get fired up again. My brother always felt the same. So we had a little connection to Rocky that most movie goers were probably missing.
Anyway, in this one an aging Rocky is running a restaurant named for his departed and sorely missed wife Adrian. He is estranged from his son who can't get past living in the shadow of his old man who is living legend in Philly. When a sports show computer simulation shows that Rocky in his prime would have creamed the current heavy weight champ, the champ's sleazy promoters offer Rocky the chance to climb back into the ring against the heavyweight champion of the world. Rocky, dealing with his own private demons and feeling sidelined by life, agrees to the crazy idea and goes into training one last time. Watching these scenes I got that old familiar feeling. Made me want to run down to the fitness center and jump on the treadmill for a few miles.
I was somewhat concerned that Stallone would kill Rocky in this one. You know, he wins the fight but dies from injuries and all. But no, Rocky comes through just fine. He loses the fight on a split decision, but he wins in all the ways that matter.
A nice bit was that the young champ is also portrayed sympathetically. He's got his own problems and his own challenges and in the end he's faced them just like Rocky.
There are plenty of callbacks to the earlier films and some nice in-jokes for long time fans of the series. Stallone turns in an amazing performance, playing the slightly punchy Rocky as a likeable and decent human being, grieving for his lost wife and trying to move on. In the end that's the final message of the film. It isn't how much punishment you can dish out, but ultimately how much you can take and still keep moving forward. As both Rocky and Sly have proven, it's not over until it's over.

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