December 22, 2006 Rocky Balboa
Studio: MGM Rating: PG-13 for boxing violence and some language.
For the sixth and what he says is the final time, Sylvester Stallone steps into the squared circle.
Although his decision to make this film has been questioned, Stallone writes, directs and stars in "Rocky Balboa."
It's been 16 years since we last saw the fighting southpaw from Philly. Unfortunately for Rocky, his beloved Adrian has died from cancer. He spends many of his days at her graveside and his nights at the Italian restaurant he owns. His son is distant and his brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) is still a curmudgeon.
Long retired from the ring, Rocky's name is thrust into the spotlight once again when an ESPN computer simulation pits him against the current heavyweight champion Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver).
Dixon's managers smell a money maker and offer Rocky the chance to fight the champ in a ten round exhibition bout in Las Vegas. As Rocky mulls over the proposal, his son (Milo Ventimiglia) tries to talk him out of fighting again. But an old acquaintance convinces the former champ that "fighters fight."
So with the help of the veteran trainer Duke (Tony Burton), Rocky starts getting ready for the fight.
I have to admit, I went into this movie expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised. Stallone has crafted an emotional film that touches on the highs and lows of life.
Without Adrian, Rocky is truly lost. But after re-connecting with his son Rocky starts to emerge from his personal darkness.
Unlike some of the other "Rocky" sequels, Tarver's champion isn't really a villain. However, he does provide Rocky with the necessary opponent on his road to redemption.
The boxer also doles out some life lessons along the way. When Rocky tells his son it isn't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and still move forward he's not just talking about boxing.
The movie is thoughtful and respectful of Rocky's age and what he's been through in his previous five films. Many people didn't enjoy "Rocky V" and Stallone himself says he didn't like the way that movie turned out. He says he wanted to give his most famous creation a proper send-off and I think he's accomplished that here.
On my rating scale, "Rocky Balboa" earns a Triple.
It's not quite a knockout but you'll like it.
By the way, stay for the credits. As someone who has actually run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky, I appreciated the ending.
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