Rocky III

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If the first Rocky film was a fairytale about the American underdog and the second film was about the American desire to grant second chances, then the third film is a cautionary tale about achieving the American dream. You see, after Rocky wins the world title, he becomes complacent. He spends all of his time hawking various products and merchandise. As a consequence, he loses the eye of the tiger. He becomes soft.

To wake Rocky up comes a man called Clubber Lang. He’s the sort of black man who’s so damn black that he’d rape your wife, your sister, your brother, your mother, your cousin and your aunt and then come back to rape your dog, your budgie and your Apple Mac after he’d had time to chill with a joint and a bucket of KFC. Poor fragile, flaccid whitey doesn’t stand a chance.

To illustrate how uncomfortably black Clubber is, there’s a scene where Clubber comes onto Rocky’s wife Adrian. He stands there cussing the Italian Stallion and then tells Adrian that he bets she spends every night dreaming that she had a real man. Before Rocky had only been mildly peeved, thinking it a minor annoyance that Clubber had interrupted the unveiling of a Rocky statue and the announcement of his retirement, but the suggestion that Adrian should have to taste the joys of dark meat is beyond the pale. Fight they must.

One of the best things about Rocky III is how damn cool Mr T is as Clubber Lang. Not only does he throw referees around and punch opponents while they’re getting up off the mat, but every word that comes out of his mouth is pure gold. First of all, in the film’s opening montage where everyone is sucking Rocky’s cock, Clubber starts shouting that he’s going to kill the Italian Stallion. And then when a reporter starts asking Clubber questions, he proclaims that he lives alone, trains alone and that he’s going to win the title alone. But the pearls don’t start proper until the first fight. When Rocky is preparing to go to the ring, Clubber appears at the top of the stairs and says, ‘I’m gonna beat you like a dog. A dog you hear.’ And then he bounds down the stairs like a maniac and injures poor old Mickey while loudly proclaiming he’s the man.

However, during the fight itself, things get even better. Clubber berates Apollo Creed when Apollo turns up to greet the fighters. He says he doesn’t need no has-been messing in his corner. Apollo obviously isn’t black enough anymore and makes Clubber sick. Apollo used to be dangerously black but since then he’s become soft like Rocky. Hell, he might as well be white. And then when Clubber finally knocks Rocky out, he taunts him, shouting, ‘Get up, sucker.’ Clubber has taken Apollo’s fondness for the word ‘chump’ and one-upped him by applying the word ‘sucker’ to his ring taunts.

But if you think that’s good, you ain’t seen nothing yet. For the rematch Clubber’s mouth brings its A game. There’s the immortal, ‘I’m gonna beat him. I’m gonna crucify him. Real bad.’ And although Clubber’s pre-match prediction of ‘pain’ is his most famous line, I prefer the line that precedes it: ‘No, I don’t hate Balboa, but I pity the fool.’ Clubber’s trash talk is peerless. He makes Ali sound about as eloquent as George W. Bush.

But this being Rocky you know that there has to be a deeper reason other than professional pride for Rocky wanting to avenge his defeat at the hands of the mohawked motor-mouth. Rocky II started the trend of personal tragedy inspiring the Italian Stallion and Rocky III takes it to new lengths by killing off Rocky’s trainer Mickey. It’s clear from the beginning that he has a weak ticker and an encounter with an enraged Mr T is enough to have the old bastard pop his clogs. Apparently chronic blackness can be fatal.

The scene where Rocky comes back to see his trainer cark it is pure schmaltz. Rocky lets Mickey die with the false belief that he beat the scary black man. And then Mickey tells Rocky that he loves him. It would be sweet if the death wasn’t immediately followed by Stallone yelling incoherently like a large grip is hammering his testicles with a mallet in order to motivate him properly for the scene. The sounds he makes are akin to the sounds I imagine Godzilla would make if it was mounted by King Kong.

After this, Rocky loses the eye of the tiger. Or to put it more accurately, he lost it a while before, as he was too wrapped up in making money. I mean, what kind of serious fighter would lower themselves to fighting Hulk Hogan? Oh no, wait, I’m wrong. In this film Hogan is actually Thunderlips, The Ultimate Male. But yeah, Rocky makes a mockery of himself by fighting a wrestler. And somehow Hogan doubles his move repertoire in this film. Even in his flabby, saggy-titted, over-tanned prime I never saw him use vertical suplexes or powerslams. But the worst thing about the scene is Hogan’s appalling line delivery. That and his ring attire and the idea of him having ‘love slaves’. I really don’t want to picture such a repulsive human being as Hulk Hogan going at it with his bitches.

As a result of charades like this, Mickey protects Rocky by putting him in fights with less than sterling challengers. Rocky didn’t know it at the time, but he was fighting bums and has-beens. The rationale for this is that Mickey was protecting him, but as a consequence Rocky loses his confidence.

So after the Clubber defeat and the funeral of Mickey where Rocky expresses his deep, overwhelming grief by wearing sunglasses and badly reciting the mourners’ Kaddish, he meets Apollo who promises to give him the eye of the tiger back.

Now what does getting the eye of the tiger back involve, you ask. Well, it basically involves lots of homoeroticism. We’re told that Rocky has to go back to the start, which involves Apollo taking him to LA where they’re going to train at his old gym, but both are immediately confronted by tens of beautifully oiled black bodies. Muscles gleam and biceps bulge, but Rocky still flounders. Yes he’s curious, as he himself tells Apollo, and yes Apollo is curious as well, as he also admits, but their relationship is a struggle.

One of the many eyebrow raising moments in the film is the fact that Apollo’s gym is called ‘Tough Gym’. You might as well call it ‘Astroglide Gym’. And then there’s the fact that Rocky spends lots of time training in a black headband and vest that is cut off to show his midriff. But the film doesn’t break out the heavy duty gayness until Rocky overcomes his flashback-ridden crisis of faith. Suddenly he and Apollo are best buds and they’re sprinting along the beach. For a second we see a close-up of Apollo’s crotch, and we’re treated to the sight of his cock swinging back and forth, and then on the soundtrack we hear the lyric, ‘It’s so hard now.’ Yeah, it’s getting hard. Real hard.

But the orgasmic fulfilment of all this foreplay is the moment when Rocky and Apollo celebrate in the surf. They paddle in short shorts and then embrace with water splashing around them. A whole generation of young men were confused and aroused by such a fine display of inter-racial manlove.

The fight at the end isn’t an epic. Instead it’s a brutal quickie. But even though he gets knocked out in three rounds, Clubber still excels with his display of wit and charm. One of his best moments is when he and Apollo exchange words. Apollo turns away from him and then Clubber angrily strikes him while telling the sucker not to turn his back. And then after this Clubber tells his manager to take his belt off and says that he’s going to get that ‘chump’.

After all the soul-searching and Clubber’s trash-talk, the fight itself is something of a disappointment, but we’re still treated to the sight of a distressed Mr T rocking back and forth in his stool while saying that Rocky is his. He may turn out to be all talk, but what talk it is.

The final scene has Rocky and Apollo contesting a private fight to see who’s the best pugilist. Both of them are oiled and both of them are wearing oversized groin protectors outside of their shorts like they’re Elizabethan codpieces. The film seems to be saying that the American dream is hollow if you don’t embrace your rebellious spirit. In order to be relevant and passionate you need to embrace the counter-culture. You need to release those latent desires. Rocky and Apollo do and they taste the sweet fruit of success. ‘Ding-ding’ indeed.

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  1. I have a confession. I found this site with a search for "rocky iii homoeroticism". And I'm glad that I did.

    Great reviews. Keep it up.