= 5 stars
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is a down-and-out loan collector in a run-down part of Philly who boxes for fun. He gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight the world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).
- Rocky (in this film, at least) is a surprisingly complex character. His life in run down, urban Philly is duly depressing, yet despite his money troubles and lack of respect, he’s optimistic.
- Solid supporting cast: Mickey (Burgess Meredith) as Rocky’s trainer, moronic Paulie (Burt Young), and wary, soured by the world Adrian (Talia Shire).
- The opportunity to fight the reigning champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) comes down as if from on high as a random act. When given the chance to rise above, he has just one chance to succeed (and rise above his depressing roots) – or crack under the pressure. That’s the American dream, baby.
- This flick contains all the original Rocky elements – the run up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, the training sequence, and the rousing Gonna Fly Now music, and the final match where Rocky and his opponent are covered in sweat and blood. All are entertaining.
- The film starts out almost too slow, builds to an very big high, and then abruptly ends. There is no coda, and I think the flick is better for it.
- Can a great movie be blamed for spawning terrible sequels?
To truly appreciate Rocky I tried to watch the film with fresh eyes and ignore the progressively worse yet increasingly bombastic movies that followed. Having not seen the original for many years certainly helped in this regard. Judged on what it is – the rise of one man against the world amid a backdrop of urban squalor – it’s a breath of fresh air and a one man tour de force with Stallone doing the writing and carrying the entire film on his shoulders with sincere, honest, and likable acting.
Then add Rocky‘s influence on practically every sport flick that has come since, and I push this up to the five star category. There’s a solid balance between getting to know Rocky as a person and the boxing. Through Rocky’s optimistic attitude amid the daily downers, he worms his way into our hearts as he does Adrian’s. While at first the domestic melodrama seems maudlin and at times boring, once the training and boxing finally gets underway, I was invested in Rocky emotionally. His one match against Apollo Creed isn’t just a fight against one man – it’s a fight to overcome all the crap he put up with his entire life to get there.
Once the pay off arrives and my heartstrings sufficiently tugged – the film abruptly ends. It’s practically the only sports flick that made me eager to see the sequel.