Rocky

1976, Movie, PG, 119 mins

Review

ROCKY
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Better films have been made about the world of sports, but for many ROCKY is the sports movie. As drenched in sentiment as it is in sweat, as much love story as fight film, this classic tale of a tireless "bum" who makes good is one of the most uplifting films ever made. Set primarily in working-class Philadelphia, it follows the fortunes of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a 30-year-old club fighter who earns his living as a collections man for a loan shark. His boxing career has hit bottom, but Rocky's love life is looking up. He clumsily but endearingly woos Adrian (Talia Shire), the shy, repressed sister of Paulie (Burt Young), Rocky's friend who engineers their strange first date, and in no time, Rocky and Adrian are deeply in love. When a challenger's injury leaves the Ali-like world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (ex-Oakland Raider linebacker Carl Weathers) without an opponent for his upcoming title defense, the boisterous champ decides to give a nobody a chance and chooses Rocky, "the Italian Stallion." Urged on by Mickey (Burgess Meredith), his crotchety old manager, and to the accompaniment of Bill Conti's rousing theme "Gonna Fly Now," Rocky undergoes grueling training for his title long shot: doing one-armed push-ups, pounding slabs of meat in a slaughterhouse freezer, making his now-famous run through the Philadelphia streets and up the steps of its art museum. Come fight time, Rocky wants only to go the distance with Creed, to prove he isn't "just another bum from the neighborhood." Surprising everyone, he gives Creed the fight of his life, narrowly losing a split decision. Amid the post-fight hubbub, Rocky and Adrian meet in a loving mid-ring clinch. Establishing a formula that would be duplicated over and over (especially in its own sequels--see ROCKY series), the film slowly draws the audience into Rocky's struggle, until his triumph becomes that of every "little guy" who's dreamed of making it big. Reminiscent of Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy (ON THE WATERFRONT) and Paul Newman's Rocky Graziano (SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME), Stallone's Rocky is magnificent, mirroring the actor's own battle for Hollywood success. As a struggling actor and screenwriter known mainly for THE LORDS OF FLATBUSH, Stallone, inspired by New Jersey club boxer Chuck Wepner's courageous loss to Muhammad Ali (a 15th-round TKO), wrote ROCKY's screenplay in three days. Determined to star in it himself, he turned down a quarter-million-dollar offer for his script, won the part, and, under John Avildsen's Oscar-winning direction, gave the screen one of its most memorable characters. The fairy-tale championship match is generally well choreographed (by Stallone), and the training montage, in its originality, remains more gripping than the many glossier imitations it inspired. Expertly paced, benefiting from well-drawn characters and an evocative, often funny script, ROCKY simply pushes all the right buttons. Former heavyweight champ and Philly native Joe Frazier appears as himself. leave a comment

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