Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Film Review: ROCKY V (1990, John G. Alvidsen)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 104 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sylvester Stallone (who also wrote it), Talia Shire (THE GODFATHER, OLD BOYFRIENDS), Burt Young (CHINATOWN, CONVOY), Sage Stallone (DAYLIGHT, director of VIC with Clu Gulager), Burgess Meredith (THE MANITOU, THE TWILIGHT ZONE), Kevin Connolly (ENTOURAGE, THE NOTEBOOK), Richard Gant (THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Hostetler on DEADWOOD), Tommy Morrison (real life boxer and great nephew of John Wayne), and Tony Burton (THE SHINING, ROCKY).
Tag-line: "GO FOR IT"
Best one-liner:  "Get up, you son of a bitch!  'Cause Mickey loves you!"

How ya like your ROCKY movies?  Ya like 'em slowly-paced and watered down?  Peppered with robot references and sequences of laughable Lynchian terror?  Sprinkled with occasional amateur chalk artwork?

Portrait of Rocky Balboa Fishing.  1990.  Crayon and colored chalk on construction paper.  20 X 12 inches.  Artist, Rocky Balboa, Jr.

Well, then ROCKY V is just what the doctor ordered for this most patriotic of days. 

ROCKY V is commonly derided by the masses; those time-tested sheep, those locusts who rarely can recognize a fine film, even when its paraded beneath their noses, nude, in an extended and wholly unnecessary shower sequence.

Oh!  Like this one, for instance.  Thanks, ROCKY V!

There's a lot going on here, though: we got sweaters worthy of early-90s Sam Malone,

a return to the Philly's most scenic and sleazy streets, for the first time since ROCKY I,

a return to 70s fashion for the first time since ROCKY I (which really is a welcome addition, because Stallone's platform boots and Talia Shire in those ridiculous, pet-store employee spectacles were two of my favorite elements from the first film),

newly shot footage, via flashback, of Burgess Meredith in all of his irascible glory,

and a new boxer– Rocky's new protégé, Tommy Gunn– wearing Apollo Creed's shorts and clasping Stallone within the grasp of his sweaty arms.

Tommy Gunn and Rocky make a great team.  Until the media begins using backhanded compliments like:  "Rocky's Robot."

Rocky's Robot.  I wonder.  I wonder...  As I wrote in my ROCKY IV review just a few days ago, Stallone seems to have an obsession with robots, an obsession which can even be seen in COBRA, as Stallone has his then-wife, Brigitte Nielsen, pose and cavort amongst an army of robots.
Now, what could have caused such a fascination?  Reflecting upon the issue with a friend of mine, he suggested that it was rooted entirely in TERMINATOR-envy.  Think about it.  The man even created his own "nude man awakening in a time that is not his own" film with DEMOLITION MAN.  If we're to give any stock to the Schwarzenegger vs. Stallone "rivalry," evidence of which can be found in TWINS, DEMOLITION MAN, THE LAST ACTION HERO, and most recently, facetiously, in THE EXPENDABLES and THE EXPENDABLES II, Stallone must have seen THE TERMINATOR as the impetus behind Schwarzenegger's meteoric rise, a franchise which in 1990 was soon expecting its high-octane, much-anticipated second installment (with Schwarzenegger set to receive the highest acting salary in history up to that point), even as the ROCKY and RAMBO series were fizzling out.  Even THE LAST ACTION HERO imagines an alternate universe where Stallone was THE TERMINATOR instead of Schwarzenegger.  Is it any wonder the man had robots on the mind?

Anyway, back to ROCKY V:  all is well and good until Tommy Gunn stabs Rocky in the back by joining up with Don King-stand-in "George Washington Duke" (played by DEADWOOD's "Hostetler," Richard Gant), a man who frequently utters such profundities as:


This all leads up to a final back alley fight (notably not in a boxing ring) which includes the following, freaky sequence which I'm about to describe.

Rocky is being beaten into a pulp when he receives a dream-vision which affords him the fortitude to "Go for it" as alluded to in the film's tag-line.  Punctuated by grainy, high-contrast black and white film, it includes:

Burgess Meredith screaming to the camera that "Mickey loves you,"

complete with brilliant, terrifying, eye-popping closeups worthy of Sergio Leone,

horror-movie style flashes back to the fight with Dolph Lundgren in part IV,

Rocky imagining himself with blood pouring over his eyes,

and a casket (Rocky's? Apollo's?) being shoved into a vault for all time.
The sequence is bizarre, vaguely out-of-place, and quite possibly the highlight of the film.  Until I receive definitive evidence to the contrary, I'm going to pretend that it was guest-directed by either Roman Polanski or David Lynch.

In honor of America, "going for it," Burgess Meredith, and the robot references, I'm going to give you three stars, ROCKY V.   Enjoy 'em!

-Sean Gill


Buck Atwater said...

While obviously the weakest of the series I never thought Rocky V was all THAT bad. I know most people hate it, but the final fight scene, the dream sequence and Mickey flashback earlier in the movie saved it for me.

Sean Gill said...


Good to see ya– and agreed. Even if it's the weakest ROCKY, I still had a fun time watching it, and I s'pose that's all that matters. Also: the Meredith Factor always helps.

scott davidson said...
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