Hollywood Product - Rocky Balboa
Stallone offers a requiem for a heavyweight
Genre: The Rocky Genre (which, now in its sixth incarnation, is a boxing subgenre unto itself).
The Pitch: Rocky (writer/director Sylvester Stallone), currently in his sixth decade on planet Earth, decides to get back into boxing to erase the ghosts of his past (including his late wife, Yo Adrian) 'round about the same time heavyweight champ Mason Dixon (former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver) is fishing for a publicity stunt to enhance his image.
Body Count: Fortunately — and not to ruin it for anyone — no one dies, except maybe narrative plausibility.
Money Shot: Surprisingly, it's none of the fight sequences that come to mind so much as every image that cinematographer J. Clark Mathis (shooting on digital) captures of Rocky loping through his old Philadelphia neighborhood haunts. He makes Rocky a ghost of himself.
Flesh Factor: Despite checking in at an even 60 years of age, Stallone looks about as ripped as a man his age can look, and oddly, like so much of the rest of this film, he wears it well.
Pop references: The plot kicks into gear when ESPN shows a hypothetical, video-game-simulated match-up between Rocky and Mason (Rocky wins!), sending everyone into a tizzy.
Fashion statements: Everyone is sporting Philadelphia thrift-store chic in the movie, one of several nice touches by Stallone to keep everything on the down beat.
Best line: "You know, I think if you live someplace long enough, you become that place."
Worst line: It's a tie between "Fighters fight" (tell that to Evander Holyfield) and every time Paulie mentions something about the "stuff in the basement," one of the clunkiest metaphors regarding — what, emotional baggage, that fire down below? — in recent memory.
Gotta have a montage: In another surprise, the best montage isn't Rocky's training regimen (which concludes yet again with him running up those fabled Philly steps), but the montage over the closing credits of everyday people mimicking that iconic moment. Silly but fun stuff.
Tagline: "It ain't over 'til it's over." Thank you, Yogi Berra, who was himself a bit on the punch-drunk side himself.
The bottom line: Like its titular character, Rocky Balboa is all heart and maybe not enough head. But Stallone as screenwriter does an almost amazing job of conjuring up the characters of the previous film, particularly the original — Spider Rico (Pedro Lovell, who was in the original) and Marie (Geraldine Hughes, who wasn't) in particular play key roles. And just when you think you've tired of watching Stallone beat this character to death, he infuses Rocky with just enough charm to score a draw from the judges. But, yo, Rock, it's really, truly time to retire.