My first impression of the Rocky film of 1985 (the fourth one since 1976’s Rocky) was quite muted—the montage of Rocky’s training for the big boxing bout was the only thing that got an emotional rise out of me at the time.
Last year I watched it again with a fresh pair of eyes and found it inspirational. Rocky IV (1985) should be among the ranks of the films that inspire—which for me, who went from a dead response in 1985 to a more alive one in 2017, is quite a statement about the power of this film.
It’s got the never say die attitude. Writer director Sylvester Stallone tells it short but sweet. It works.
Stallone had been in punishing mode in the Rambo sequel, but in the same year as Rocky he is about the discipline of the body to make a personal statement for a friend. That friend is Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the former world champion.
Apollo is a little rusty after five years out of the ring. However, the aging boxer doesn’t lie down easy, when a Russian amateur boxer, Drago (Dolph Lundgren), with a supportive and ambitious team behind him, puts his name down to fight anyone willing to face him, an incredible powerhouse in the ring. Apollo won’t put down a challenge.
It goes that the exhibition match between Apollo and Drago at Las Vegas is a full-on American affair, with showmanship and glitz. Rocky himself will fight the Russian machine in response to the Las Vegas fight as Rocky won’t let the match lie in controversy. He’s fighting for a friend—which gives him the motivation.
It may be cliché, but it’s good. Rocky Balboa doesn’t choose as his driving force the money or national pride. It’s more about fighting for a friend and a human being. From there, the film is set up so that one is behind Rocky although a win is against the odds, fighting a taller, bigger and formidable opponent.
Rocky IV is also a film of visceral montages, music and the loveable characters of the Rocky world. It is also a film of two fights. Rocky’s fight goes the longest, a gruelling endurance race taken to the limit. Maybe a little contrived if one over thought it. It’s short, and slight, but writer and director Stallone did well in producing power in the emotion and in the inspiration and didn’t just leave us with an us-them finish.
Rocky IV (1985) Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielsen, Dolph Lundgren. Director: Sylvester Stallone.