Rocky V

1990, Movie, PG-13, 104 mins


A special facet of all the "Rocky" films is that they give Sylvester Stallone, a frequently underrated screen personality, a magnificent opportunity to perform at his very best--for if ever an actor was meant for a part, Stallone was born to play Rocky Balboa. Even the weakest of the films provides an uplifting experience, an experience seldom equalled in other films of the generation. It is even conceivable that this film, along with the first and third entries in the series, will go down in film history as classics of the genre; and rightfully so.

The film picks up where ROCKY IV ended, with Rocky (Stallone) returning to Philadelphia from the Soviet Union after defeating his huge Russian challenger in a brutal bout. Rocky has little time to bask in his glory, however. He quickly learns that his boxing career has left him with irreparable brain damage and his fortune, which he had entrusted to his dimwitted brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young), has been squandered by an incompetent accountant. Deeply in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, Rocky is forced to sell all his possessions, including his mansion. Rocky, his wife Adrian (Talia Shire), and son Rocky, Jr. (Stallone's real-life son Sage), move back to his old neighborhood in seedy South Philadelphia. Adjustment to the dramatically different lifestyle proves to be most difficult for Rocky, Jr., who quickly becomes involved with a bad crowd. Meanwhile, financially desperate Rocky is tempted to re-enter the ring when shady, flamboyant promoter George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) offers him a huge sum of money to defend his title. Adrian, however, is adamant that Rocky not risk his life by returning to the ring. Rocky's future looks bleak until he is approached by a young boxer named Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), who idolizes the champ and begs him to help him train. Rocky agrees to the arrangement, which puts a further strain on his relationship with his son, who believes Rocky is neglecting him in favor of his protege. The boy becomes even more deeply involved with the bad company he keeps. Events turn when Gunn dumps Rocky and winds up in promoter Duke's camp. While this gives father and son a chance to reconcile, it also poses a threat to Rocky as the increasingly more arrogant Gunn continually challenges his former mentor, soon leaving Rocky no choice but to take on his star pupil.

Reportedly the last of the "Rocky" films, this was, despite its poor box-office performance, one of the best. John G. Avildsen returned to direct this film, his first since helming the original film in 1976, and he once again gives the story the gritty emotion and realism that made the first film so successful. This movie brings the saga full cycle, tracing Rocky from his humble beginnings through his many triumphs and ultimately his return to hard times. ROCKY V seems an appropriate finale to the series, providing a logical climax to the story. Stallone is splendid, as are cast regulars Shire and Young. Though his character was killed off in the third film, Burgess Meredith returns here as a spiritual guide seen only in Rocky's mind, and he is again very effective as the wily fight manager. For fans of the series, these characters have become old friends and it will be with much regret, no doubt, that they will part with them. For the most part, the "Rocky" pictures have been outstanding entertainments, beautifully crafted and executed, and ROCKY V is an important and worthwhile addition to the series. (Violence, adult situations, mild profanity.) leave a comment

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