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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Movie Review - Rocky Balboa

***Rocky Week -- Day 6***
***Note:  Spoilers may appear in all Rocky Week reviews.***
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes, James Francis Kelly III, and Milo Ventimiglia
Directed by Sylvester Stallone

I fully recognize that it's likely sacrilege to say this, but Rocky Balboa is a better movie than the original Rocky.  Now that I've completely ticked off any fan of the Rocky series, let's delve into why this flick -- coming two decades after the release of Rocky V -- is so successful and deserves plaudits for all involved.  The sense of nostalgia that runs throughout adds an air of poignancy to Rocky Balboa as our title character (played by Sylvester Stallone) finds himself dealing with boththe death of his wife Adrian and his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) feeling the need to distance himself from the overpowering and omnipresent gravitas that comes from being Rocky Balboa's son in Philadelphia.

It's these predicaments that give Rocky Balboa heart and help to shape Rocky into a more well-rounded character here than we've ever seen before.  Having left the boxing world behind long ago, Rocky now runs an Italian restaurant named after his deceased wife.  Days are spent reminiscing with patrons about past bouts, but things begin to change when ESPN formulates a computerized battle between Rocky and the current heavyweight champion Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), the latter of whom has been criticized for only fighting contenders whom he knows he can easily beat.  With the tv special garnering much attention, Dixon's handlers goad Rocky into one final battle and Balboa finds his boxing memories too precious to pass up one last chance in the ring.

Moreso than any other Rocky movie up until this point, this isn't a film about boxing, but a flick about family.  Sure, Rocky aims to get a little redemption, but in the end, it's Rocky's relationships with his son, his brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young), and his deceased wife that really make this one shine.  With some simple touching reminders of past Rocky flicks -- the turtles make a return appearance; Rocky befriends a female, Marie (Geraldine Hughes), who just so happens to be the young gal who sasses Rocky in the first film -- the film exudes nostalgia while still being its own piece of filmmaking.

Stallone returns as screenwriter and director here and I think this is by far his best work behind the camera of any Rocky flick.  The whole film feels much more complete visually, conceptually, and story-wise than Rockys III-V and the conceit of an older, somewhat defeated man getting one final shot at redemption feels oddly more touching than the first film's classic underdog success.  Maybe it's just that I'm getting older, but the idea of having "one last shot" somehow makes Rocky Balboa the most enjoyable film in the Rocky franchise for me.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

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