At a recent wedding I ran into several old college friends. Good guys all around, but for one reason or another we’d just lost touch. A shame really, but that’s the nature of life — good people come in and out leaving a lasting impression only to be never heard from again. In an ideal world we’d stay in touch with everyone. It was a shame too, because hanging out with them all at the wedding you couldn’t help but feel a slight regret. There was a tinge of sadness pervading everything. The feeling of “why is it we stopped staying in touch?” I forgot how much I enjoyed being with them.
And so it was under those circumstances that I watched the final chapter in Sylvestor Stallone’s Rocky Balboa franchise. The sixth-installment, cheesy at times, was but a fitting reminder of how much I loved the underdog champion from Philly. It was in watching Rocky Balboa when I wished the two of us lost touch.
For those who aren’t really fans of the franchise (I can’t believe I even have to type those words) there’s no sense to continue reading. For more than anything else Sly Stallone wrote and directed Rocky Balboa as a love letter and perfect sendoff to one of Hollywood’s greatest characters. It was a remarkable ending, one who’s fans could only appreciate.
And yes, to get the elephant in the room out of the way, I found myself slightly misty eyed (not quite crying thank you very much!) about two or three times throughout the movie.
It opens on a sullen and aging Rocky at the grave of his one true love, Adrian. It’s hinted at that she passed away several years ago from cancer. Her death also destroyed the champ. It beat him down when no other fighter could and left him a hollowed shell. He runs a restaurant and is estranged from his son Robert (Heroes’s Milo Ventimiglia) and yearns for something. That something is to prove to himself, Paulie and his son that he’s still got something in the tank, that he still has something left as a man. He wants one last go around.
At the same time the current Heavy Weight champ Mason Dixon (real life boxer Antonio Tarver) has alienated boxing fans everywhere because he’s too good at what he does. He’s never had a challenge because there’s never been a boxer good enough to go toe to toe with him.
Can you see where this is heading?
Yup, by a strange coincidence Rocky and Mason Dixon eventually agree to square off. The final boxing fight is one of the best in the entire series. Shot like an actual boxing match, the back and forth between the fighters had me on the edge of my seat. I was literally yelling for Rocky to pick himself up off the canvas and land some hurtin’ bombs on the champ.
It’s also a good time to point out that steroids are awesome. Stallone was 60 freaking years old when he made this movie and the dude looks like an Adonis. He could literally pick up the world if he wanted to. He might even be more ripped in this one than the others combined.
This time around, there is a melancholy hovering over the movie, as if Stallone knows this is his swan song for the character which not only made him famous but also cast a large shadow over everything he did afterwards. Thankfully, Stallone handled with film with grace and doses of humor to break the tension at just the right times for an audience already cynical of there being yet another Rocky movie.
The movie isn’t perfect, but it is a perfect reminder of just how much I’ve come to love Rocky Balboa over the years. I mean he basically ended the Cold War (it certainly wasn’t Reagan) when he knocked out Ivan Drago in Moscow. A true symbol for underdogs, now Rocky Balboa is a symbol for second chances, a shining reminder that life doesn’t end as we age it’s only what we make of it. If you’ve got the burning desire and passion then anything is possible.
Highly recommended for any fan of the franchise or just anyone looking for a feel good movie.