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Rocky Balboa: Actually Good!

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

Image Rocky Balboa is the sixth (and perhaps final) installment in the Rocky Saga, and I'm happy to report that this chapter in the Italian Stallion's life has taken a turn for the interesting.
As a longtime Rocky fan, I didn't expect Syvester Stallone to go this route with the movie. I expected another rip-off of both Rocky IV and V where he battles some random palooka — but in this case, it's like Rocky had to prove himself all over again — to the boxing world and to himself — that he still has one last punch left at his age.

I missed Talia Shire's Adrian character, but in retrospect, Sly needed to write her out of the story, if only to let his Philadelphia hero explore a new dimension in his life: twilight love. Some critics lamented the "chaste" romance between Rocky and Geraldine Hughes' Marie, but I found that to be the most realistically paced part of the narrative. So many movies insist we believe that romances unfold at the same pace as the main story — but they don't.

Stallone had the good instinct to let Rocky and Marie ease into their courtship, because they simply had to. Rocky is too damaged to rush into another relationship — not while he keeps a chair tucked between the branches of a tree by his wife's grave — and Marie is too smart to rush the one viable candidate for love she's had in some time.

Rocky Balboa reminded me of the early movies, Rocky and Rocky II. The character of Rocky had his old sense of humor back (which I loved), and gone was the MTV Rocky — the superhero of the glistening pecs and armored codpieces of Rocky III and IV.

As a fellow screenwriter, I could see, could feel Stallone fight  to rediscover this character. A few years and a few flops made Sly hungry again, and it  produced wonderful scenes like when Rocky declines to say hello to Marie's son, then immediately thinks better of it and turns around to say hi.  Remember when I said that Stallone let Rocky explore twilight love? Well, he also lets Rocky prove that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks, and that it's never too late to change, no matter who you are or how old you are. 

The bottom line is this: if you are a true Rocky fan, you won't be disappointed with Rocky Balboa. it's not just another sequel — it's special. It's about the usual rah-rah themes (not giving up, going the distance), but it's also about an actor, a writer, a director and a boxer joining forces at the twilight of their lives to rediscover what made them actors, writers, directors and boxers to begin with.