Rocky Balboa is one of the great creations of cinema fiction to have ever appeared on screen. From the time Sylvester Stallone appeared on screen as the collector with a heart of gold for a Philadelphia bookie who gets a shot at the boxing heavyweight title of the world the name Rocky has been synonymous with guts. Stallone went frequently to the well over the years with varying success to produce Rocky II a good if somewhat predictable sequel, Rocky III most notable for introducing Mr. T to the world, hitting a low with the abysmal Rocky IV and climbing back into the ring a little with Rocky V and WBO heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison.
In Rocky Balboa we join Rocky who is working in his deceased wife’s restaurant Adrian’s (forget that Adrian would never have called a restaurant Adrian’s) as the manager/resident story teller who meets and greets customers and offers up stories of his boxing days as entertainment. Rocky is a man in his declining years who sees the glory of days gone by and wonders why he cannot experience that glory again.
This Rocky is a Rocky as close to the original as it is possible to come given all the intervening years. It is the Rocky with a big heart, gentle manner, easy trusting and fiercely proud that we came to love in the first Rocky movie. Stallone takes his time to tell the story in Rocky Balboa, he wants you to understand Rocky’s journey and that it is not just about glory but about self and being who you really are at the core of your being. The same can be said for the opponent Rocky ultimately steps into the ring against Mason “The Line” Dixon a prize fighter who has never been truly tested who has yet to find out that the greatest opponent is the one within.
If you want to you could sit back and take pot shots at the likelihood of a sixty year old man climbing into the ring to fight (though this is handled incredibly well in the movie) but that would only mean that you aren’t taking the first step to watching a movie “the willing suspension of disbelief”. Rocky Balboa is a wonderful and fitting end to the Rocky saga and will stand out as the second best Rocky movie ever.