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IN SHORT: The death-free finale to the series.
That summary in no way is meant to imply that Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is going to take the big Count Out prior to receiving his Heavenly Reward as a result of a stupidly designed return to the boxing ring just to get that one last grab of glory. It could have happened that way. God knows all virile males who had planted for the previous five rocky films all suspected that number six would either shut the franchise down permanently or give one last blast of glory to leave us all drained and hoarse in our movie seats. It was close, folks, but another pass was necessary to build up the emotional elements these films are famous for. But we're getting ahead of all this stuff.
We've spent the last twelve or so years writing at least a hundred and fifty or so times each year that it is our most fervent belief that (you) shouldn't have to know the source material to understand the story you see on screen. That goes for sequel, prequels, adaptations of books or teevee shows. Whatever. Screenwriter Stallone, even if he's never heard of us, has taken that philosophy to heart in his script for the sixth Rocky film aka Rocky Balboa. Reintroducing us to the fifty-ish two time boxing champ, Rocky Balboa has found comfort in two places. One is the cemetery where he stores a chair in a tree that overlooks the grave site of his beloved Adrian, dead from something he refers to as "girly cancer". The other is the center of his new life, as proprietor of a restaurant called Adrian's (est. 1995). Rocky bears his losses as if they are his own personal cross. He spends his evenings in the restaurant telling stories of his long lost boxing career while "Mexican cooks in the basement cook up the Italian food" served to the paying customers. Rocky also now has a full grown son, Robert Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia), who seems to be some kind of accountant (if we follow the dialogue properly). Junior seems to feel that his professional career is strictly due to his father's fame; everyone wants to meet the famous dad, y'see. There's some great psychological gobbledygook to be mined in this subplot that isn't well mined.
But the story truly involves what has happened in the pro boxing world, post Balboa and Apollo Creed and Mr. T and Mike Tyson. THe current champion is a man named Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver) -- two hundred pounds of muscle and a career fighting other boxers who won't even let t he champ work up a sweat. To use a great Yiddish phrase, one that should be familiar to most grownups, Dixon is a putz. He doesn't push himself. He hasn't;t worked very hard to get his championship belt and he has an attitude the size of the high tech hl oft he trains in. His managers cannot get him fights until, one strange night, ESPN cable recreates a "Dream" Fight," originally a gimmick that pitted Rocky Marciano against Cassius Clay (Muhammed Ali) -- two boxers who, for age and other legal reasons, could not face off in the ring.
ESPN computer generates a Mason Dixon vs. Rocky Balboa in his prime match and animates it on their cable broadcast. Dixon feels dissed. Balboa pays no attention to it at all, until brother in law Paulie (Burt Young) forces him to look. Now, needing to fill that void in his life, Rocky had been wondering about applying to get his boxing license back. To do some small bouts in the old neighborhood. He doesn't get what he wants but he manages to get much more than he ever thought possible. One last exhibition match. Dixon versus Balboa. Skill versus Will. A guaranteed bloodbath HBO pay per view to be set in Las Vegas.
Rocky isn't thrilled about taking on the champ. Rocky may be punch drunk but he isn't stupid. And so begins the road to that one final bout. THe ultimate comeback. The end all of everything that forms the history of the legend of Balboa. Men were sniffling in the screening room early on in t his film. If ever there was a "chick flick" for men, Stallone has made it.
The final ten round bout goes the distance. It heals divisions between father and son. It put the legit champion on notice that he's been goofing off. But certain emotional touchstones are missing from t he last act. It's been set up that as proud as Rocky is of his son, the love doesn't go 100% in both ways. It's there to be had but the dialog just doesn't force the issue. The boxing match itself just made yours Cranky absolutely crazy. We never expected that Rocky could win. We truly expected that he could be seriously hurt, if not killed in the ring. We also held on to the hope that, like some real life bouts, the real champ would have gotten lazy while Rocky pumped himself to new heights. To some extent all of that happens, but we've said too much already. Rocky Balboa is a fitting end to the series. We briefly get glimpses of characters long gone. We palpably feel Rocky's pain. While the first act played out, which brings the audience up to date on all Rocky has lost, there was audible sniffling among the men in the screening room. As written, Rocky Balboa is a chick flick for us guys
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Rocky Balboa , he would have paid . . .
Ring the bell. Done is done.
28 Weeks Later
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