Ditching right to the front of the line and running away with this year’s “Most Unnecessary Sequel” award is Rocky Balboa, the sixth installment in what was an already-prolonged series before this brain fart even bubbled to the surface. Amateurish and unintentionally hilarious, the project reeked of desperation from the outset. Having seen it, now it just reeks.
Rocky Balboa (Stallone) is now in his fifties and a widower. He spends much of his time at the grave site of the love of his life, Adrian. Her legacy lives on in the form of a small Italian restaurant that Rocky owns and operates, rightfully called “Adrian’s.” He still keeps up with boxing, and the current champ is Mason “The Line” Dixon (real-life boxer Tarver, and no, I’m not making that name up). The public doesn’t have much love for Dixon because his opponents are viewed as a bunch of cupcake punching bags. Dixon hasn’t been challenged. Leave it to ESPN to simulate a fight between Balboa and Dixon via the miracles of artificial intelligence. The simulation leads to a debate that Rocky feels can only be settled in the ring. The Italian Stallion is out of retirement.
Stallone has done all the leg work (he directs, writes, produces, and stars), so I’m holding him responsible for the horrid pacing on display. Rocky spends the first two acts moping around Philly, reminiscing of days past with longtime pal and source of inspiration, Paulie (Young). We get flashbacks to fights from the previous installments and all kinds of life lessons, but none of this is remotely fresh. It’s treading old material and only comes across as filler until we get to the big fight. To his credit, Stallone is in amazing shape for a man his age.
The film finally breathes some new life when he begins his training, and the big fight will undoubtedly have Rocky enthusiasts leaping from their seats. It is well-filmed, even with overused filters and quick edits. For me, it was too little too late. The fight scenes in all of the Rocky films are unrealistic to the point of distraction. No one ever blocks and just one of the hay makers thrown would likely land someone in the hospital for weeks. Besides, don’t they stop fights just for hangnails these days? The acting, for the most part, is surprisingly amateurish. Stallone has never been a great actor, and he mumbles his way through a handful of the scenes as if he knows he’s yakking ancient material. Burt Young retains the edginess of Paulie, who is the most enjoyable character in this installment. Geraldine Hughes is not memorable in the thankless role of the new love interest, and Milo Ventimiglia is flat-out embarrassing as Rocky Jr. His big verbal confrontation scene with Rocky Sr. is overacted and lacking in emotion.
Rocky Balboa may appeal to nostalgic moviegoers who long for the days of a true underdog, but anyone expecting anything revelatory is bound to be disappointed. The new, young crowd that the film is being marketed to will likely become too bored by the first two acts to become fully immersed in the final battle. The word is that this film has been made so that Stallone can end the series on his terms. The studio saw a quick name recognition cash grab. I guess that’s all it takes these days.
Length: 102 Minutes
Rating: PG for boxing violence and some language.
Theatrical Release: December 20, 2006
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Ventimiglia, Tony Burton