Rocky Balboa (2006)
October 7, 2014 5:49 PM - Subscribe

Thirty years after the ring of the first bell, Rocky Balboa comes out of retirement and dons his gloves for his final fight; against the reigning heavyweight champ Mason 'The Line' Dixon.

A widower, estranged from his son, running a small restaurant in Philadelphia, Rocky discovers he still has "some stuff in the basement" when a computer simulation shows him beating the current reigning heavyweight champion.

Sensing an opportunity to make some money, the champion's managers decide that a fight with Balboa in an exhibition match is a perfect opportunity to rehabilitate the champion's poor public image.

Perhaps the sequel that comes closest to capturing the spirit of the original Rocky, the film contains many echoes of the original Rocky:
-the a cappella song over the opening credits is the same one that the group on the street was singing in the first film;
-Rocky has two pet turtles. No mention if their names are "Cuff" and "Link";
-Spider Rico, who was the opponent in the opening fight of the first film is now hanging out and washing dishes at Rocky's resturant;
-Marie, the young girl Rocky walks home and warns against hanging out with creeps in the first film, returns as a single mom that Rocky helps out;
-the pacing of the first two thirds of the film is very similar to the original; it's more about Rocky the man than Rocky the boxer;
-The champ, Mason "The Line" Dixon has never had an opponent go the distance, the same as Apollo Creed;
-everyone but Rocky seems to think the fight is a joke;
-Rocky spends some time beating up sides of beef;
-the fight ends in a split decision.

One interesting change from all the other Rocky movies: The opening sequence is not a series of images from the big fight of the last movie; instead, it is a series of highlights of Mason Dixon fights.

"...the entire movie is a cry for help." Bill Simmons on Rocky Balboa. (Reader respones - 1, 2). Bonus - Bill Simmons ranks the first five films.

Review roundup:
Stallone still has what it takes to make Rocky the peoples champ, and while the film is by no means a knockout, it will certainly be right there ’til the final round.

The Rocky saga comes to a close with this subdued yet effective (and affecting) entry...

Its also surprisingly dull – I mean, you really want them to get on with the fighting and the first forty minutes or so are just tedious...

The ol’ lug can’t be blamed for wanting one last victory lap, but if you’ve got nothing to offer except benign nostalgia, just let the gloves stay on the glory-days shelf.

How Winning is Done: Rocky's Speech to his son
The final fight - part I, part II (sorry for the quality, I couldn't find anything better that shows the full fight).

Bonus materials:
The Rocky Saga - Documentary
The Real Rocky
posted by nubs (7 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It defies reason how warm, engaging, and enjoyable this movie is.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mason "the Line" Dixon? REALLY?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:33 PM on October 7, 2014

Eyebrows, you have to imagine it in the voice of Michael Buffer - Mason the LINNNNNNNNNNNE DIXON!
posted by nubs at 9:47 PM on October 7, 2014

I'm with DirtyOldTown on this one. This movie should be a complete embarrassment, but somehow, some way, it works. The Rocky living his modest life with his little South Philly house and his chin-up bar and his restaurant full of memories seems like a natural continuation of the guy who just wanted to go the distance in the first movie. And a little bit of that spark from the first movie rubs off because of it.
posted by workingdankoch at 12:08 AM on October 8, 2014

The 1989 Alien Nation tv series was supposed to be set in the future 1990s, so in the opening credit sequence there's a movie marque with "RAMBO 6" on it, as a jokey way of indicating the future setting. When Rocky 6 was announced, it seemed ludicrous. Like, both the Rocky & Rambo franchises had gone so far over the top from where they began, what in the world was this going to be? But it was beautiful, and got back to the heart of what launched the franchise in the first place. (I should say that I don't think I've ever seen any of Rocky 3-5 all the way through, just seen the first countless times on cable and the second maybe once all the way through many years ago.)

Most sports movies are about winning the game. But one of the central themes in Rocky Balboa is that it's not about winning the fight, it's about fighting the fight.

I love this movie.
posted by oh yeah! at 7:55 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think part of the reason this one works as well as it does is because of the autobiographical elements in the Rocky story. In the first Rocky, Stallone was a relative unknown, just looking for a chance to show what he could do. In this last one, Stallone's at the end of his career, just looking for another chance to show that he's still got the ability. I think it's Stallone's ability (or maybe, the fact) to really be the character in the first and last movies is what makes them work.

And I found it really interesting to note that several reviews disliked the pacing of the film - the original Rocky is almost glacial in pacing; Balboa mimics that. You know who Rocky is by the time the fight comes along. Because in both cases, it's not about winning the fight - it's about getting tested and proving to yourself and the people around you that you can go the distance - that you can get hit and keep moving forward. That isn't going to work in a movie unless you know the character. For both films the victory condition is getting through the fight:

"It really don't matter if I lose this fight...when that bell rings and I'm still standing, I'm gonna know for the first time that I just wasn't another bum from the neighbourhood." (And I still can't believe that scene was nearly cut from the first film - it's the lynchpin not only of the first movie, but probably the entire saga).

Rocky II-V I think mostly forgot that - that it wasn't about winning, it was about self respect and about putting yourself through the fire to earn it. There's moments where it surfaces, but never as clearly as it does in the first and the final films.

Rocky Balboa, interestingly, gives us the self-respect lesson a bit from both sides - Rocky and Mason are both doing the fight for that reason, although Mason doesn't know it until he is in it ("And when that time comes and you find something standing if front of you, something that ain't running and ain't backin up and is hittin on you and your too damn tired to breathe. You find that situation on you, that good, Cuz thats baptizim under fire! Oh you get thru that and you find the only kind of respect that matters in this world, Self respect.") . Mason learns during the fight what it takes to deal with adversity, and Rocky proves to himself (and everyone else) that he still isn't just another bum from the neighbourhood. And so he leaves the ring before the results are announced because it was never about that - it was about putting it all out there, one last time, and seeing if he still had what it took.
posted by nubs at 2:30 PM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was under the impression that the critics mostly loved Rocky Balboa. For the pacing, to hell with those guys. I hate that movies can't take their fucking time anymore, let us get to know people.
posted by JHarris at 1:31 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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