Rocky Balboa (2006) Directed by Sylvester Stallone. With Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes and Milo Ventimiglia.
The passing of time is often a cruel thing, as evidenced in Sylvester Stallone’s comeback of all comebacks, Rocky Balboa. How, in 2006, a full sixteen-years since Rocky V (he never gets in the ring in that film) is it possible, or feasible that our old brawler from the Philadelphia mean streets can get in the ring one more time?! Many may sneer and assume it’s all a bit silly. In truth, this episode in the series is the most convincing outside of the original and its sequel, Rocky II.
The film works because it isn’t about 1980’s power ballads or joke bad guys, rather, it’s more of a homecoming about the character again, and Rocky facing up to how he fits into the modern world. On that level, it shares turf with Darren Aranofsky’s The Wrestler. We see Balboa through a different lens, a man living in the past, haunted by the things that he once held dear. It’s also a film about leaving the past behind and living in the now. Stallone handles the drama beautifully, like he never stepped out of the role, giving a performance that speaks of an actor bang in tune with the plight of his character.
The actual boxing side of the film is very well shot. Showcased as an HBO bout with all the familiar ringside characters and trimmings (Mike Tyson cameo) the presentation adds a welcome layer of authenticity that, come the sound of the opening bell, fuels our desire to see Rocky do well. Stallone himself looks nothing short of incredible, his physical appearance leaving no doubt of his capability of being up to the job.
As director, writer and star, there’s no doubting that Stallone has succeeded in making exactly the film he wanted to – a film that is part heart-warming nostalgia trip, part entertaining action-drama. Fighting time as well as a younger opponent, Rocky Balboa emerges as ever the disarming charmer he was back in the 1970’s and come the final act, you might find yourself surprised by how much you’re rooting for the old slugger. 4.5/5