Rocky IV (1985)

5 Apr

rocky iv 1985

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I want to ease into reviewing “Rocky IV,” the fourth entry in the “Rocky” film series, because I really shouldn’t rate it three stars (out of four). I should give it two-and-a-half stars—it’s not a good movie, but not a bad one either. But I won’t give it a mixed review because to me, this is a certain guilty pleasure. That’s what the “Rocky” series has stooped to—silliness yet a great deal of fun. The Academy Award-winning original film, “Rocky,” is an all-American classic, the second film is about as strong, and the third one was only decent. You notice how the films are descending from “all-American classic” to “just as strong” to “only decent” to “silliness yet a great deal of fun?”

Yet, I just can’t help myself. I enjoyed “Rocky IV” as a silly sports film. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, it’s full of sports film clichés—hammy motivational speeches and training montages (there are many to be found here). Oh, and there’s more…

“Rocky IV” takes place a few years after the climactic fight between Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Mr. T. He, his wife Adrian (Talia Shire), and their 8-year-old son attend a birthday party for Rocky’s brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young). Apparently, Paulie doesn’t have a lot of friends, seeing as how Rocky, Adrian, and Rocky Jr. are the only ones that are there. If that’s not enough, here’s the most bizarre part of this scene—Rocky’s birthday present for Paulie is a robot that apparently understands human statements and responds to them. All I’m thinking is—what was Sylvester Stallone thinking when he wrote the screenplay for this film, like he wrote the first three films? Did he really think a talking robot was necessary for the “Rocky” films? I mean, you don’t even see something like that in “Staying Alive,” which Stallone directed.

Five minutes in and there you go: the most bizarre thing you’ll find in a sequel to an “all-American classic.”

Then, we meet Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a 6 ft. 4, 261-pound Russian genetically-altered boxer. (This guy could make a great video game villain.) He comes to America to take on some great American fighters. So Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), feeling like he’s lost his strength, decides to fight the giant monster himself. Needless to say, this doesn’t go too well, so Rocky spends the rest of the film training to take on Drago for a big climactic fight in Russia.

So there you go. The robot and the “super boxer” make the first half into something bizarre for the “Rocky” films. Then, in the second half, we get Adrian’s worrying (as usual), Paulie’s comic relief (as usual), and the climactic fight (as usual). Don’t think I forgot the training montages because I’m going to say that there are a lot of them in this movie—no exaggeration whatsoever. The rich dialogue and characters from the original “Rocky” are gone—“Rocky IV” is a silly sports film. It even has the people of Moscow chanting, “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!”

What’s fun about this movie? Well, the fact that Rocky’s rival-turned-buddy Apollo Creed and Rocky’s soon-to-be opponent Drago are fighting each other for a match is fun even of itself, but before the fight begins, James Brown comes along and sings “Living in America”—I couldn’t help but smile during that scene. Rocky is still the man he was and played by Stallone with gusto. Dolph Lundgren is suitably menacing as Drago, though I’d like to see another side of him, preferably with his wife, played by Brigette Nielsen. And of course, I’ll never get tired of Paulie.

Oh yeah, and just to make sure the film doesn’t end as the first three movies did (the fight ends, the victory music is played, and Rocky hugs Adrian), the screenplay finds it fitting for Rocky to give a hokey speech about how people can change.

I am dead serious. Rocky makes a speech about world peace after he and Drago pummel each other almost to death. I want to hate this movie, but I just can’t!

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