Director: John G Avildsen
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Richard Gant, Burgess Meredith
ROCKY V was released in 1990 and Hughes tells you why its one of his best guilty pleasures!
“Ah come here Rock. you’re ready ain’t ya? That Apollo won’t know what hit him. You’re gonna roll over him like a bulldozer, an Italian bulldozer. You know kid, I know how you feel about this fight that’s comin’ up. ‘Cause I was young once, too. And I’ll tell you somethin’. Well, if you wasn’t here I probably wouldn’t be alive today. The fact that you’re here and doin’ as well as you’re doin’ gives me-what do you call it-motivization? Huh? To stay alive, ’cause I think that people die sometimes when they don’t wanna live no more.
Every time I get into a discussion about the Rocky films I always end up discussing the merits of Rocky V. There are not many fans out there for the fourth sequel on the best sporting franchise on film. Yes there are million fans of Rocky Balboa but they range from the simple delight of the original to the pure 80’s feel good over the top Russian invasion of Rocky IV. If you put me in a room of 100 fans then I suppose I would be the only one who would put my hand up and say “I love Rocky V!”, yes I do and you know what, there is no shame in admitting it!Rocky V trimmed back the excess over the top fashion of parts three and four and returned to the roots of the original and first sequel. Sly was determined to get the heartbeat back into the series and also stepped down in the role of director and handed over the duties to John G. Avildsen, whose directed the original to such a great effect that it actually won him an Academy Award for Best Director.To get back to the basic’s feel of what made Rocky loved around the world then the character had to lose everything. Here we see the always troublesome Paulie sign a ‘power of attorney’ over to Balboa’s accountant, who not only had lost every single money Bauer earned but also failed to pay Rocky’s income taxes in 6 years. Broke in the danger of losing everything, Rocky decides to fight Union Cane, but there is trouble ahead.
The film like them all starts with the previous events and this time we see of course Rocky getting battered and then victorious against the all might Ivan Drago. Its after the fight the signs are there that all is not right. Rocky in the shower screams out to trainer Tony “Duke” Evers (Tony Burton) for his wife Adrian (Talia Shire). With his hands shaking and in severe distress, its here that you hear Rocky call his wife “Mick” who was of course his former trainer who died in part III. After the loss of the money and with Rocky declaring he wants to fight again, Adrian convinces her husband to go for tests and its here we learn that Rocky has suffered brain damage because of the punishment of the Drago bout, and he can no longer risk fighting because the next blow could be fatal and sadly after years of success, Rocky retires from boxing and is also skint.
Now this is where I argue with all fans of this franchise. Yes its a bit of a stretch to get all the same characters back into the same neighbourhood where they came from. I mean Adrian ends up working in that Pet Shop, Paulie in the Meat Factory and Rocky puts on the same leather coat and hat that we have not seen for many of years. But you know what? And this is going to cause a bit of a stink here, but in the first twenty minutes we have more plot than anything Rocky IV offered.
Yes I know the fourth is a great feel good film but 80% of the running time is montage……..even Team America take the piss out of it. I watched Rocky IV only last night and I was stunned at just how empty the film is. The opening shows the previous ending……we then get the juice of the plot, Sly then gets into his car and we have clips of previous films, Rocky gets angry and orders a fight and then for a good twenty minutes all we see is training sequences before the eventual fight. I am not complaining because I love the film but it annoys me when people say Rocky V is a mess because how can it? When it offers more than the much popular 4th in the series.
Rocky V is also guilty of showing some past clips but the main one here is a welcome treat. When Rocky walks into the old gym once owned by Mickey, the Italian Stallion thinks back to the night before the fight of Apollo Creed and we get an all new additional scene where we see Mickey giving his favourite son a great speech and while its quite obvious that Burgess Meredith has aged and the scene is a recent filmed sequence, how can fans put their noses up in the air, because even seeing the brilliant now sadly deceased Meredith back in the series is a total delight because many forget that his character of Mickey was just as important to the franchise alongside the likes of Creed, Paulie and Adrian. This scene in particular is one of the reasons why I love this much criticised addition.
Rocky V strings on the concept of family, something that Rocky is very proud of but unwillingly begins to tear apart himself thanks to the arrival of Tommy Gunn (real like boxer Tommy Morrision). Tommy wants to be trained by the guy he idolised and while at first Rocky is reluctant, he begins to see good in the guy and the lore of the boxing ring is too much and soon the relationship develops to the point that it effects his son played here by real life sibling Sage. In some wonderful played montage scenes, we see Rocky train Tommy while his son trains on his own and there is a great build up to when Rocky Jr fights back at the school bullies but then his achievement is ruined because of his father’s dismissive attitude and his dedication to his new boxer.
It’s because of this the betrayal of Tommy is hard to take. Seduced by Don King rip off Duke (Richard Gant), Tommy may have the fighting power and skills of our Rocky but like Adrian says, “he does not have the heart!” and Tommy picks fame and money over pride and dumps our hero for fast cars and nice mansion. Its here that the Duke’s plans comes to the fore. His idea of Trainer Vs Student begins to surface and convinces Tommy to harass the Balboa’s until Rocky agrees to fight him.
Back in 1990 you have to remember that I was only 13 years old and back then there was no internet, no access to film trailers (unless you went to the cinema) and film magazines were to a minimum. I did not know what to expect from the film and so when the climax built up, I did expect Rocky to climb into the ring and batter this upstart! What we had though was the unexpected. Rocky V was the only sequel not to have the training montage. Instead we had Tommy enter the bar and scream insults to the guy who got him there. Rocky at first does the right think and walks away but Paulie (showing the only bit of loyalty in the series) tells Tommy where to go and pushes him which results in the World Champion smacking him to the floor. Rocky runs over to help his brother in law and its right here we get what I feel is one of the best moments in the franchise…
Paulie: Tommy, you’re a piece of garbage, you know that?
Tommy Gunn: Hey, stay out of it.
Paulie: No, you listen okay? Rocky, Rocky, he’s the real champion, you’re just a damn joke.
Tommy punches Paulie to the floor and Rocky runs over……
Paulie [to Rocky] You should have left him on the streets where you found him.
Rocky: [to Tommy] Hey! You knock him down how ’bout tryin’ knockin’ me down now
George W. Duke: No, no. In the ring. In the ring. Tommy only fights in the ring.
Rocky: My ring’s outside.
No training, no Boxing Ring….a brawl in the street and while its a bit too fleeting and should have been longer, it does for me fit into the series well. I mean who wants another bout in the ring when we can see Rocky fight where there are no bells and no rules.
“Mom, it’s Dad!,” screams Rocky Jr. “He’s on television! He’s fighting!”
Rocky and Tommy square punches while a TV station films it all, Tommy leaves him for dead…..because in case you did not know the original plan was to kill of the character but Sly changed his mind towards the end and thank feck for that otherwise we would never have had the quite splendid 6th film Rocky Balboa.
This change of heart meant that we witness the surreal scene of Rocky dying and Mickey looking down from heaven and screaming for him to get up with the inspired words of….
Mickey: Get up you son of a bitch! ‘Cause Mickey loves you!”
And then what follows is the infamous Rocky music and once again our battered guy rises from the floor to fight back against the odds…
It’s hard not to write this review without a smile on my face but come on, its such a feel good moment that I can not hate this movie, I even stay right until the final credit’s rolled because we have a cheesetastic Elton John song playing while we see photograph’s of all the Rocky films in order. In some ways even now you feel that this was the end of a much loved character, of course Sly like the character here defied the odds with the stunning next chapter, but for me personally I feel part five is the unloved sibling that is misunderstood. Its nowhere near as bad as people make out and apart from the original and the fourth film, I have probably seen this more times than parts 2 and 3, and that is why this is my first HCF Guilty pleasure. Readers can laugh and smile but then if you disagree then sue me guys but in the words of Rocky Balboa……
“Sue me for what?”