Two things struck us when we caught Rocky Balboa, the sixth installment of the popular series of movies. The first is that, for a 60-year-old, Sylvester Stallone (Get Carter) is in ridiculously good shape. The second is that we can’t believe that Rocky’s still sporting that fedora of his. Jeez, doesn’t the man know anything about style?
Being out of touch, however, is the hook of this movie. Rocky Balboa (Stallone) is a man out of his time; a champ in his day, an optimist and lovable guy at heart—he doesn’t fit in with the cynical modern world. It doesn’t help that his wife has passed away and that his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia, TV’s Heroes) feels like daddy’s legacy is more of a curse than a blessing. So, when a computer simulation that pits him and the current champ Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver in his big screen debut) leads to an actual exhibition match between the two, Rocky rises up to the challenge and comes out of retirement.
To call this a sequel doesn’t seem quite appropriate. It’s a much more subdued film, in terms of pace and plot, than its predecessors and works better as an epilogue to a series that undoubtedly inspired an entire generation. And it’s that generation—anyone old enough to remember catching the originals—that this film is really targeted at. Others, however, might find the film a tad dull, and even a little cheesy, despite a smart and tongue-in-cheek script.
Stallone surprises with a commendable turn, but Ventimiglia particularly brings a stunning performance to the show that cements him as a young actor to definitely keep an eye on.
In a world of pessimism, Rocky Balboa is a welcome return to simpler, more hopeful times. As a film, it’s good. As an ending to a classic series, however, it’s a must-see.
You’ll dig Rocky Balboa, if you liked: The original Rocky films. This one’s really more a nostalgic trip than an underdog sports flick.