Rocky V

Rocky V ★★★½

I honestly do not understand why Rocky V isn't considered one of the best Rocky sequels. Not only that, its considered the worst even by Stallone, who chalks it up to his own greed. Rocky V is not only a beautiful film but a natural story and a refreshing change of pace to three sequels that have essentially been the same film.

I only watched this film grudgingly because I had heard such bad things, but I was won over almost immediately by a beautiful exchange between Adrian and Rocky. She's his everything again, something that has been lost ever since Rocky 2, and it took John Avildsen's return to slap that back into place. Stallone's performance is by far his best in a while, probably because he's not distracted by directing anymore (something that benefitted his performance in Creed as well). Avildsen provides some sweet throwback to the original Rocky with his good-hearted banter with Robert on the way to school reminiscent of his similar chat with Marie. There's some brilliant directorial choices - Adrian using a certain news article as bird litter, the use of Paulie as Robert's mentor to show the lack of a decent father figure in his life and the emotional manipulation of the audience to build towards the family rift. Rocky offhandedly passes things that should be Robert's inheritance to Tommy, to an extent that we as an audience should want to protest out loud.

Stallone's screenplay is better than his one in Rocky 4, with some great themes throughout. Rocky sees himself in Tommy and gets distracted by him at the expense of his son. This is built on themes mentioned in previous Rocky films about it being the only thing Rocky is good at. Tommy Gunn and Robert Balboa are both incredibly deep characters, with their actions having such natural consequences that they feel like real people. Gunn's transformation from friend to adversary is natural even though it takes place within an hour. Rocky's casually using of family phrases with Tommy hurts us just as much as it hurts Robert. That's not to say that the execution is poor in places, but as a whole the movie really works.

Stallone gets back to who Rocky is as a character in this movie, rather than just a beefy conduit for 90-minute training montages that were Rockys 2-4. Its a delight to see Talia Shire back doing things again, and she gets more to do in this movie than Rocky 3-4 put together. Her scenes with Stallone keep excelling off their unbelievable chemistry and some great writing. Burt Young pulls out the best Paulie performance yet, and his ability to see what Rocky cannot speaks volumes. I don't understand where all the Razzie nominations came from, the only one who might be worthy of one is the overacting Richard Gant as the caricature George Washington Duke.

The film's climax was a pleasant surprise for me. I was thrilled they didn't try to make it into a proper bout in the ring, because that would've killed all the buildup. Unlike previous films, where the story has served the fight, here the fight serves the story that's been building for almost two hours and the payoff is incredible.

Luke McGowan liked this review