Sunday, December 26, 2010


The Rocky series has kind of a silly reputation, because it's probably the most heavily milked Best Picture-winning series of all time. But the original film is justified in winning the award (thought it wouldn't be my pick), and it's really quite a good movie. It's a series of boxing movies, but the original is a movie about a boxer. That's a significant distinction, and it's why the film works. It's two hours long, and there are only two matches, one at the beginning, and one at the end. It doesn't exist to show Sylvester Stallone as a conquering hero with impressive musculature, but rather as a bum who makes the best of the one chance he gets. Stallone is lumped in with a lot of the other meathead action movie actors, but he's the only one I've ever seen write a good script like this and play such a vulnerable underdog of a character. Really good work by a guy who's content to make roid-fueled bloody extravaganzas these days.

So Rocky Balboa is a past-his-prime boxer who earns a living roughing people up for a loan shark. He still fights sometimes for extra money, and tries to talk with the mousy pet shop employee who sold him his turtles, and who's the sister of his drunkard meat packing friend. The owner of his boxing club hates him for missing out on his potential, and he lives alone in a crummy apartment in Philadelphia. But he gets a big break when Carl Weathers' Apollo Creed needs an opponent for his Bicentennial boxing exhibition, and essentially picks Rocky's name out of a hat of local fighters. So Rocky tries to get his act together, starts a relationship with the girl, and trains his hardest for the fight, which is only a few weeks away. I was impressed with how strong the character work was in general. His relationships with his friend and trainer are both difficult, as the former feels he isn't getting his due and the latter has shared a mutual disappointment with him for years. It's good stuff, and the boxing is really just a backdrop for a guy trying to get his life on some sort of track. The last fight is appropriately dramatic and brutal, and the ending is perfect, going back to it being about the people and not who wins. I don't expect a whole lot from the many sequels but I'll probably watch them all eventually anyway, just out of curiosity.

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