Stallone returns to write, direct and star in Rocky Balboa, which sees Stallone’s iconic character return to the boxing ring one last time. Watching all of the films this close together, this entry actually has some nice emotional resonance.
Rocky (Stallone) is mourning the death of Adrian (Talia Shire), he’s stepped away from boxing for good and is running a little Italian restaurant in his hometown of Philadelphia, named in honour of his late wife. Sure, Paulie (Burt Young) is still around, but he certainly hasn’t mellowed with age, and he’s still racist and less than likable.
Rocky is still trying to connect with his son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), but he has problems that Rocky can’t help him fix. Rocky also wants to give back to his old neighbourhood, and in a nice callback strikes up a friendship with Marie (Geraldine Hughes), a character that gave him a bit of grief in the first film.
As he tries to give back, one more physical challenge is on the horizon. A champion boxer with a public image problem, Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver) is in need of some good PR, and after a computer program shows the two of them going two to two, with Rocky winning, they decided an exhibition bout is in order.
Stallone has come a long way in his directing abilities, and this one is a little more fluid when it comes to the boxing. Sure there’s a training montage, and though the film feels very familiar, it actually ends up being my second favourite of the six films, coming in behind Rocky II.
Stallone and Rocky are unafraid to look at the idea of having grown older, carrying the pain and scars of a life well-lived. I quite like how strongly Rocky mourns the loss of Adrian, visiting the places they used to visit, work and live in, not to mention spending a lot of time at her graveside.
While Mason is the competition in this film, he doesn’t feel quite as well-developed as the other characters in the story, he’s filled out with some broad strokes, but Rocky’s belief in the character bolsters it a bit.
I like how Rocky has aged, how he has settled into who he is, and I like that he wants to give back, he has inserted himself into Marie’s life, not to mention her son’s, and works to find a way to help his own son.
Rocky Balboa is a great way to end the main series, though the character would return in the Creed spin-off films, and Stallone leaves the character in a great way, older, wiser, sadder, but still strong, and still with the Eye of the Tiger.
A great way to wrap up the series.