Rocky V

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The trouble with the American Dream is that everyone wants a piece of it. No one is happy to sit back and be content with his or her lot in life. Just take Rocky's accountant - he embezzles the Italian Stallion's millions and Rocky becomes a peasant again. He’s back to where he was in the first film – on the cold Philadelphia streets, trying to make ends meet.

Rocky V is obviously an attempt to recapture the feeling of the first film. Gone is the glitz of the third and fourth entries and back is a supposedly gritty, realistic depiction of the fight game. But try as it might to recapture past glories, this is a truly terrible film. The drama isn’t convincing at all and it doesn’t even work as a guilty pleasure. Every element that made the series enjoyable has been drained out and shat onto the sidewalk. Where are the 15 round boxing fights where 95% of the punches are head shots? Where are the homoerotic training montages (the only overt hint of gayness being a moment where we see Rocky using bubbles to help train Tommy Gunn)? Where is the knuckleheaded soft rock music? All of it is gone.

The story picks up immediately where Rocky IV left off. Rocky has defeated Ivan Drago and now wants to go home. But although a lingering shot of Stallone’s naked ass reassures us that his delicious body is in good shape, the man himself can’t stop shaking. And to make matters worse, when his wife tries to console him, he calls her Mickey. Look, Rocky, I know your wife has a guy’s name, but she doesn’t look the least bit like a Mickey, especially as you associate that name with a short, crinkly Jew.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that in the space of a few hours, everyone suddenly ages. In Rocky IV, Adrian was still quite attractive. Here, though, she looks old and tired, like the Siberian winds of the fourth film have sucked all the moisture out of her. And then you have Rocky’s son, Rocky Junior, who seems to have gone through puberty overnight. Who knows, maybe the excitement of watching his father get fisted by Ivan Drago for 15 rounds made his balls drop in an instant. And then you have Rocky who suddenly seems to look past it. The only one who doesn’t seem to have changed in the one day that transpires between the end of the fourth film and the start of this one is Uncle Paulie. Apparently booze and misanthropy are the key to staying young.

One of the most worrying things about this film is that it briefly shows Rocky’s attitude to sex. After arriving home, Rocky tells Adrian that he’s going to ‘Violate her like a parking meter’ with his teenage son standing a few inches away. That’s just nasty. And then there’s a scene where Rocky is looking at his son’s drawings. Among them he finds a drawing of his son’s teacher. It’s a topless drawing and the tits are colossal. And when I mean colossal, I mean that if the drawing were a true reflection of the size of his teacher’s tits, they’d have their own gravitational pull. The woman apparently has moons under her top. But Rocky knows that boys are boys and that they love breasts. Therefore he doesn’t reprimand him. He’s probably just glad that he didn’t find a drawing of Apollo Creed sprouting a three-foot boner. Or secretly disappointed...

But even though Rocky professes to love his son, he can never be fully committed to him, especially when a buff young kid called Tommy Gunn turns up. I’m sorry son, but a skinny little thing like you isn’t going to be able to capture the attention of Rocky like a beautifully mulleted pugilist is.

Tommy Gunn has surely got to be one of cinema’s most heinous creations. Not only is his mullet visual rape, but he’s basically a big baby, too. At the beginning he tries to prove himself by knocking a sparring partner out – they’re not supposed to be fighting for reals. And then when Rocky becomes his trainer and he starts to win fights, he throws a hissy fit when he sees a newspaper cartoon basically saying that he’s Rocky’s puppet. Okay, that’s annoying, but there’s no need to suddenly hate the man who helped you. And then once he’s screwed Rocky over and joined forces with the dastardly George Washington Duke (a promoter in the Don King mould), he begins showing off his new car, his new clothes and his new girlfriend. And sure his girlfriend is a hot piece of ass with big tits, but the way he slobbers over her is embarrassing. Yes he’s from Oklahoma and this is probably the first woman he’s slept with – in the past I imagine he fucked pigs and piles of cow shit – but there’s no need to be such a child.

But the worst Tommy Gunn moment is when he finally wins the World Title. At the press conference he cheers and whoops like Kurt Angle on crack, but when he doesn’t get the respect he feels he deserves, he storms off and begins kicking stuff. Okay, so maybe it’s too much to expect a nuanced performance in a Rocky film, but I ended up wishing that Tommy Morrison genuinely did have HIV so that any chance of a Tommy Gunn sequel was definitely laid to rest.

A more enjoyable character is George Washington Duke. As previously mentioned, he’s basically Don King – he’s black, he has big glasses and he’s always pissing words out of his mouth. And so he’s on a mission to get Rocky to fight and to make some money. Cue him appearing at Rocky’s press conference after the Drago fight (I love the way that in Rocky films bad guys turn up at press conferences after Rocky is victorious – the conveyor belt approach to introducing villains is exactly like professional wrestling; once the champion is victorious, he must be given no time to rest). He tries to grab Rocky’s attention but Adrian says that he’s retired now. Silly woman. But Duke is persistent. He says things like, ‘It’s time to put some hustle behind that muscle’ and even gets Rocky kind of interested in another fight. But then like a bad penny, Adrian turns up and says no – she really is annoying in this film; yeah you love Rocky and you don’t want him to get further brain damage, but really, where’s the fun in that for me.

Thankfully, though, Duke helps inspire a Tommy Gunn/Rocky Balboa street fight. And although the fight itself is tedious – it wants to be gritty, but it ends up playing like a second rate hardcore wrestling match what with its use of trash cans and chainlink fences – it’s worth it for the moment where Rocky confronts Duke. ‘Touch me and I’ll sue’ says the smug bastard. And then Rocky knocks him out and says, ‘Sue me for what?’

But even though this is meant to be some kind of big victory, it fails to generate any lasting excitement. The film is a hollow, soulless enterprise. And the final scene where Rocky bonds with his son and gives him an earring that looks like a chandelier is plain embarrassing.

But worse than this, the film also bastardises previous Rocky films. There’s a flashback scene where Rocky gets advice from Mickey. Bathed in an ethereal glow, the old trainer spews words of wisdom and then tells Rocky that he’s his reason for living. And then he says that when he’s down, he should hear Mickey shouting, ‘Get up you son of a bitch, because Mickey loves you’. Since when did Mickey become cute and cuddly? He was always a bit of a bastard, a slightly malevolent Jewish Yoda, not some lovesick puppy. It’s things like this, the second rate ways of trying to update the Rocky formula, that makes the film the mammoth failure it is.

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  1. Okay the whole review is pretty damn funny but i lost it at "slightly malevolent Jewish Yoda" Good work