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In ROCKY IV, writer-director Sylvester Stallone follows the formula that filled box-office coffers the first three times out, taking the underdog "Italian Stallion" (or transforming him into an underdog, as is the case here and in ROCKY III) and giving him a seemingly unbeatable
opponent. The main difference here is that, by 1985, the lines had begun to blur between Rocky, Stallone's blue-collar American Dreamer, and Rambo, his reactionary, jingoist mercenary. This time the good vs. evil confrontation isn't black and white; it's red vs. red, white, and blue. When Drago
(Dolph Lundgren), a gargantuan, scientifically trained Soviet boxer, not only defeats but kills Rocky's now good friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in an "exhibition match," it's up to Rocky to avenge his friend's death and defend the country's honor. Rocky--against the wishes of wife Adrian
(Talia Shire)--is off to the USSR to take on the Russian automaton. While Drago enhances his amazing punching power using high-tech equipment, Rocky toughens up under the guidance of Apollo's former manager in a spartan compound in the frozen Soviet countryside, using the most primitive of
methods. After the appearance of Adrian and the all-important training montage, Rocky takes on the huge Soviet in front of a partisan Moscow crowd. Burdened by lackluster performances, making little effort to develop its characters, wholly lacking in imagination, and philosophically repugnant,
ROCKY IV is a far cry from the delights (both large and small) of its illustrious original.