Rocky IV

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The whole plot of Rocky IV could be put on the back of a potage stamp – Apollo dies; Rocky seeks revenge. Nothing else happens. None of the characters change. Well, aside from Apollo, but he only changes because he snuffs it. But despite the fact that the film is wafer thin and deeply dumb, I still can't help but love Rocky IV. It's so bad it's fucking brilliant.

One of the funniest things about Rocky IV is the fact that it's basically just one big music video – it should have been renamed Rocky: The Musical. Honestly, watch the film. Whenever a bit of character development is called for another music video kicks in. Oh, Apollo's dead? We'll have a music video of Rocky moodily driving his car (while not taking any notice of the road). Oh, Rocky's got to go to Russia? We'll have shots of Russian soldiers and we'll play some pop song about two worlds colliding ("Two worlds collide, rival nations."). Oh, we've got to contrast the two fighters' training methods? We'll have some thinly veiled gay porn where we see endless shots of ripped torsos and bulging muscles. It's absolutely brilliant.

But as much as I like the intense homoeroticism of the training (I dig Rocky's bear beard), the 'There's No Easy Way Out' video is probably my favourite. It's hilarious. As mentioned above, it involves Rocky driving about while not looking at the road (it's kind of like Miami Vice where Don Johnson would brood in his car while listening to Phil Collins). But more than that, it involves flashbacks from all the previous Rocky movies (it's blatantly obvious that the whole scene is a cheap time-filler). And because Apollo has just died, most of the flashbacks focus on Creed. Cue tons of homoerotic imagery: the two fighting, the two hugging in the surf in short shorts and the two dancing in front of a mirror while waxed within an inch of their lives. It's obvious that Rocky is pining for more than just a lost friend.

However, as much as it pains me to admit it, I have to say that Creed had it coming (his death, that is). He's cocky in his press conference, he calls Drago a ‘chump’, he dresses as Uncle Sam, he's backed by James Brown and he confuses the poor Russian with dancing girls and flashing lights. No wonder Drago kills him. He's over stimulated and he's appalled at the decadence of American society. He just has to destroy it. "You vill lose."

And I have to say that I love the way that the Russian characters are portrayed. First of all you've got Drago: he's a robot. Then you've got Drago's wife, played by Brigitte Nielsen: she looks like Drago's brother (I'm sure she's got a moustache in this film). Then you've got the zealous commie manager: he's manipulative, disingenuous and a whiner – there's one bit where he goes, "You are the aggressor!" and there's another bit when he storms out of a press conference after theatrically throwing his hand up and saying, "We go!" And then you've got the lovable peasants that Rocky helps out when he's training. You see, they're not all bad! Rocky proves that we were right not to nuke them.

But even Drago really isn't that bad a person. At the end he proves that he's merely a pawn of the degenerate, atheist commie scumbags that run the Soviet Union – he grabs his manager by the throat and lifts him in the air, saying that he just wants to fight. Like Rocky, he's just a warrior. But what future there is for a man who gets beaten by an Italian-American midget, I don't know.

And the fight itself is brilliantly ridiculous. Not only do both boxers take about a million punches to the head, but they also do a couple of wrestling moves. Oh, and there's one bit when Drago grabs Rocky by the throat and punches him in the face after the bell has rung. Magnificent.

Quite how Rocky remains lucid enough to make a grand speech at the end, though, is anyone's guess. But somehow he does and, man, what a speech. "Here were two guys killing each other. But I guess that's better than twenty million. What I'm trying to say is that if I can change and you can change; everybody can change." Crowd roars, Gorbachev look-a-like applauds, the Iron Curtain is torn down and the world is united by a punchy half-wit with a speech impediment. God bless America.

But there are a couple of other things I have to mention. The first is that Rocky running up a mountain and screaming "Drago!" is genius (I was ready to fight fifteen rounds myself after watching that). The second is that one of Apollo's nicknames is 'The Count of Monte Fisto' (who says the film is gay?). And the third is that as much as I love the film, the robot is absurd. There's one bit when it interrupts a serious scene (Apollo is telling Rocky that he's coming out of retirement). Suddenly it appears, playing music, and then, in a girl's voice (before it spoke in a robot voice), it tells Paulie that he's the greatest. Has Paulie reprogrammed it? Is he secretly good with computers? And what does he get up to with it behind closed doors? The mind boggles. But then, hilariously, after this moronic interlude, the serious scene continues as if nothing's happened. The film throws reality out of the window.

Having said that, though, who needs reality when you have Rocky IV? I mean, moaning about a robot seems churlish when you're watching Rocky Balboa single-handedly end the Cold War. I'm more than content to just sit back and laugh at the wonderful absurdity of it all.

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