Just to pre-warn you, this is a spoiler review.
Here are some facts about Rocky IV:
- It is almost an identical beat-for-beat remake of Rocky III (1982)
- At one point, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) gifts his hapless brother-in-law, Paulie (Burt Young) an apparently sentient robot. The fact that the robot has consciousness is used to comic effect early in the film, then not mentioned.
- James Brown appears in person and performs ‘Living in America‘.
- About one-third of the way into the movie, it transforms into an 80’s soft-rock karaoke montage.
- Although we see Rocky’s adversary, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) receiving injections during a training montage (and the fight, I think), it is not established whether or not these are performance enhancing.
- At the end of the movie, it is implied that Rocky has defeated communism.
- I think this movie is more or less perfect.
There is nothing wrong with Rocky IV, if you don’t like it, simply keep watching it until you do. Buy the soundtrack on cassette. Listen to it on a Sony Walkman, to get into the eighties feel. Then go back and re-watch it.
Rocky IV is the previous 3 films in the series distilled: We see the fight from the previous film. Rocky has retired. Something bad happens to get Rocky back in the ring. The odds are stacked against him. Rocky is training in an alien environment. Something is distracting him from training. This is resolved. Rocky trains well. Rocky overcomes his adversary through sheer force of will. The end.
We love Rocky and we want him to win, just like we did in the 70’s. Stallone is still likeable, though his chiselled (enhanced) appearance proves a slight disconnect in terms of relateability. The tunes are great. I’m not a big fan of 80’s rock, but I’m a sucker for a montage and this is really more montage than movie. The fight scenes are great; loud, bombastic and over the top.
The big miss of the movie is Burgess Meredith, who played Mickey, Rocky’s grizzled trainer/manager. Meredith added such gravitas to the series, but was written out in the previous instalment. Rocky’s new trainer, Duke (Tony Burton) is fantastic, but under-utilised. His leap over the ropes at the end of the fight is something to behold.
So many elements of this film have made it into pop-culture. Even if you haven’t seen it you’ll know something about it. It is the eighties embodied on celluloid. Great fun.