Rocky is a mid 70’s (34 years old at this point) film that served as a star vehicle for everyone’s favourite mumbler, Sylvester Stallone. It follows the story of a Brooklynite/Pennsylvanian boxer who is chosen as a contender for the big time, which puts him in the ring against the heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali/Apollo Creed/Obligatory Black Guy. He is determined to either win or go the distance (stay upright for all fifteen rounds). Rather surprisingly, he loses the match in the first film but goes the distance.
He gets chosen for the big time due to Creed (/Black Guy) liking his nickname. Said nickname is the Italian Stallion, which makes him sound like a horse* or a Marlon Brando-like porn star (“I’ll give you a cum-shot you can’t refuse.”**).
When you think of the Rocky franchise, you don’t give it much credit for being clever, you just think of a clichéd boxing movie franchise where Stallone beats some guy up (to the series theme Gonna Fly Now), runs up some steps and wins every time. This, I feel, is a problem shared by his later Rambo films. Whereas the first was an interesting look at how veterans cope after Vietnam and highlighted the plight of those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the sequels just concentrated on showcasing Stallone as an action hero and just showed him kicking ass.I saw Rambo 1 (good), 2 and 4. After 2 (I watched them in a weird order) I didn’t even bother with 3.
The first instalment focuses more on characters and the relationships between them, such as the girl (called Adrian. And she’s a girl. Really.) that Rocky spends the film chatting up, as well as the relationships with his trainer and his best friend as well as his mob boss. The big fight itself takes up less than ten minutes of screentime, leaving the rest of the one hour and forty six minutes to focus on the character interactions. It works pretty well and is easily a contender for best Stallone movie I’ve seen (I realise that’s like saying ‘Which one’s better, ‘Highlander or Daddy Day Care***’ but you get the idea). Viewers who are only familiar with Sylvester Stallone through his later works may be pleasantly surprised by his breakthrough role, which is surprisingly well done considering the low budget and actor-written script they had to work with. It also focuses on one man living out the American Dream. Seriously, if you had to show someone what The American Dream meant, this is the form you’d express it in.
*Somewhat fitting; horses can’t talk properly either.
**I’m ashamed of myself sometimes, but not enough to take out that line.
***Rationale for choosing those two movies: one is shit and the other is awesome.