Sunday, March 25, 2007

Abridged DVD Review: Rocky Balboa

Written and Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Venimiglia, Antonio Tarver, and James Francis Kelly III

Though there are some snags along the way this movie surprised me and I found it completely enjoyable. In place of the nonsensical punch fest that I was expecting I found an engaging, emotional (and dare I say nearly sweet?) story of a man nearly broken, angry, and depressed finding a way to literally and figuratively fight back against his own inner demons and a world that seems intent on dragging him down.

Emotion seems to be the word of the day, which is good because pretty much the entire first half of the movie is all about emotion. There is very little in the way of action, it is all about the characters.

From Rocky and Paulie having two different reactions to a memory laden trip through Philadelphia on the anniversary of Adrian's death, to Rocky dealing with an ultimately unfulfillable job while Paulie deals with the loss of his, to Robbie Jr. having issues living under the shadow cast by the name Balboa. There is a lot of emotion to process, and I didn't even cover half of it, just the early stuff.

Of course as the previews for the movie told us. A cable sports show conducts a computer generated fight between Rocky and the current champ Mason “The Line” Dixon(OK I admit something when horribly wacky with that name) which has Rock take the win. This leads to Rocky getting the idea to train again and eventually try for a few small fights, you know “just to compete”.

While all of that is playing out the boxing world is having a tough time. Dixon is extremely unpopular with the fans(seriously, they throw things at him and everything) and the buy rates are going down. That is when his managers realize that a Balboa/Dixon exhibition might just stir up some much needed attention. Guess what this leads to, MONTAGE! ...But in a good way. Even though training is underway there are still plenty of obstacles to get past before the big fight.

By the time Dixon and Rocky actually make it into the ring with each other you are connected and almost need this fight to happen as badly as Rocky. I don't want to ruin anything else here but I can say this, the fight is everything that it needs to be and then some.

I was particularly impressed with the way that Stallone's performance. The simpleness (notice I didn't say unintelligent, I believe he is quite smart in his own perhaps unconventional way) in Rocky if played incorrectly could sway from endearing to offensive very easily.

I also want to mention a bit from the extras, an extended version of the scene after Paulie loses his job, behind the restaurant Rocky and him have a talk. In the deleted parts of the scene Paulie has such an amazing emotional(there is that word again!) breakdown that I don't even think I can describe it. Just very intense and at times a little difficult to watch. In the end the extended version does go on a little longer than I would like, but after watching it I definitely have to give my respect to Burt Young.

On the flip side of what I have been saying there were a few small things that were a bit annoying. At times it does feel like you are being emotionally lead around. Also a lot of the problems that Rocky runs into seem to be solved in a similar manner (lets face it, an emotional speech is a great thing for a movie to have, but would it really be able to sway an athletic commissions decision? Yeah I don't think so either.). The only other main issue I had that comes to mind immediately is the second montage aka the final fight. There was a little bit of everything thrown into that fight, by that I mean effect wise there was just something of everything. Replays, slow motion, black and white effects, crazy cutting and fading, pretty much everything short of rotoscoping. It all seemed a bit much.

In case I haven't made it painfully clear yet. My recommendation is, if you haven't done so already already. Seek out Rocky Balboa and give it a chance, you just may enjoy yourself.