- Directed by John G. Avildsen
- November 16, 1990 (US)
Forced to retire from boxing, Rocky takes over Mickey’s gym and trains a young boxer desperate for success.
Despite its flaws, Rocky V is a film that attempts to get back to the Rocky roots. It tries to be the story of an underdog trying to stand up and succeed. They don’t make Rocky into symbol of America or anything like that. He is more the everyman here.
Even with continuity errors and some erroneous medical science it largely succeeds at the endeavor. The story starts at the very end of Rocky IV with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) realizing something is really wrong with him. Turns out to be brain damage that effectively ends his boxing career. Not that it would in real life but here it does. On top of that his brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) made some extremely poor choices and got Rocky to sign a power of attorney paper which allowedh is accountant to rob him blind and make a massively poor investment leaving Rocky and his family destitute.
I like that Paulie was switched back to an inconsiderate jerk. At no point does he genuinely own up to his role in Rocky‘s situation. He abused his trust with Rocky and doesn’t care. Why Rocky doesn’t kick him to the curb at any point is a mystery. At least when it comes to the story. I think most people would havek dumped him long ago. But anyway…
Talia Shire returns as Adrian Balboa and mercifully is not a token girlfriend like she was in the last one. She is once again Rocky’s better half and is the one that keeps him on the straight and narrow and tells him when he’s been wrong. But something that bugged me. As I said this starts at the end of Rocky IV and it looks very much like Adrian is there in Russia with Rocky but she stayed behind in Rocky IV with their son so what’s she doing there with Rocky?
Eventually Rocky intersects with a young and hungry boxer named Tommy “The Machine” Gunn (Tommy Morrison). The plot of the story is essentially Rocky living his life through Tommy. He’s attempting to recapture his glory and by default do all the right things with Tommy as his stand in. Unfortunately that causes him to neglect his family leading to divisions with his son (Sage Stallone) who here is about fourteen despite being nine or so in the last film that ended minutes before this one started. Holy temporal anomaly!
Morrison as Gunn isn’t bad, but he’s not great. He manages to get the job done. The major problem is that his character doesn’t really show any chafing at the comparisons to Rocky until after the title fight when everyone is calling him ‘Rocky’ aside from one scene where he punches a Rocky trophy that’s it. His leaving Rocky’s tutelage was well done but all that anger over the comparison was abrupt.
Sylvester Stallone is in fine form as Rocky. He’s struggling emotionally as he deals with his current situation. He has fought all his life to get away from his roots and now finds himself back where he started. And in true Rocky form he doesn’t necessarily care that he returns there but he feels as if he let everyone around him down by not staying out of there because his return brought them back too.
I had said in an earlier post that perhaps they should make a Rocky film that doesn’t necessarily end in the boxing ring. This one doesn’t but it does end in a fistfight in the streets. I thought for a street fight it was a little bit over the top and a bit too 80s in its style. It felt lifted from They Live. It should have been less showy. Shifting tides and maybe some exchanged dialogue.
Something you will not see today is a resolution to the bullying subplot like you did here. Rocky’s son is being bullied by a kid at his new school. Things get serious when that kid steals his coat and leaves him bloodied in the process. In return Rocky Jr. beats the bully’s ass in front of that kid’s friends. And that causes him and the bully to end as friends. You could not do that today.
All the elements have a bit more of a punch than what we got last time. The general story as well as Adrian’s emotions and support of Rocky. Rocky’s struggles to find self-worth and fix his life even vicariously through the training of Tommy Gunn. Rocky for a long time has defined himself as a boxer rather than a father or husband. He needs to find meaning in his life beyond the ring. Paulie returning to his jerkiness. It all has something to it.
It feels like the soundtrack was trying to lean more into hip hop than a rock sound. That’s not Rocky. Not even close. It seemed a weird choice to me.
One thing really bothered me. It-or rather ‘he’-just jumped out. What am I talking about? The guy in the beret at Mickey’s gym when Rocky takes over. Who is that guy? He looks a bit like Burt Young but it’s not Burt Young. You’ll see him hanging in the background of scenes at the gym but near as I can recall he’s never named and nobody actually talks to him. I’m guessing he had some part in this that got cut but the elements leading up to his stuff remained.
Rocky V is much more in the mold of the first two films than it is of its predecessor and it greatly benefits from that. Rocky fans will find something to enjoy if they can get past the guy in the beret. What is his deal?!